Anna Fox (Amy Adams) is an agoraphobic child psychologist who finds herself keeping tabs on the picture-perfect family across the street through the windows of her New York City brownstone. Her life is turned upside down when she inadvertently witnesses a brutal crime.
If you were like me and watched the trailer for Joe Wright’s The Woman in the Window as a coming attraction way back when movie theatres were actually open and the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t around (I know, it’s crazy to think about) and thought that it looked amazing, I don’t blame you. Usually, whenever Amy Adams is in a movie, it’s a tell-tale sign that it’s going to be brilliant. I mean seriously, when has she ever let any of her fans down with her performances?
But aside from Adams’s performance, the film just looked like it would be quite the interesting claustrophobic thriller. Of course, though, the COVID-19 pandemic eventually caused this movie to be delayed indefinitely and now it has finally been released courtesy of Netflix. And as much as it pains me to say it, I have to say it because it’s truly how I feel – this movie should have never come out. The Woman in the Window is so disappointing it’s pane-ful.
I’m not sure why this comes as a huge shock to me though, to be honest. During the Christmas season a few months ago, I went ahead and picked up the novel by A.J. Finn and I practically had to force myself to finish it. The first fifty pages or so weren’t too bad but it eventually turned into a boring, generic, and sloppy mess that didn’t really feel like it knew what it wanted to be. And Finn’s writing style is extremely questionable, to say the least.
I was probably just hoping that with a film adaptation and with great screenwriter Tracy Letts penning the script, that this would be a case of a bad book turned into a great film. But, no. This is just a case of a bad book turned into a bad film, unfortunately.
When it comes to character development here, there is very little for practically anyone. I understand that some characters can’t be too developed or else certain plot mysteries would be revealed far too early, but they should have at least fleshed out Anna Fox and David Winter a lot more than they did. These are two characters that are integral to the plot but interestingly, by the time the movie came to a close, I felt like I barely knew who they were.
Anna is an agoraphobic child psychologist who happens to see a genuinely horrific crime while peering out her windows that night. We are shown that years ago, her husband and young daughter were tragically killed in a car accident while Anna accidentally swerved off the side of the road. She likes cats and she enjoys watching movies and drinking wine. If you ask me, that’s not enough to get me to truly care about a character.
As for David Winter, some aspects of his character I can’t go into too much detail about because it would divulge into spoiler territory, but he is developed even less. Don’t get me wrong – this is a movie all about Anna Fox. I know that. It’s supposed to make us question her relationships with the people in her life and its goal is to mainly focus on her. But at the same time, it just means that virtually every side character is boring and uninteresting.
And sadly, Tracy Letts’s script is extremely sloppy and all over the place. It feels like it’s not too sure what tone it wants to take. Plus, this was the perfect opportunity to delve deep into mental health issues, but instead, it goes about this on an extremely disappointing surface level. Instead of talking about the severity of agoraphobia and the depression that Fox clearly suffers from throughout the course of the film, it’s barely even talked about. Even though I didn’t enjoy reading the novel, I have to admit that it least author A.J. Finn wrote about Fox’s mental health issues. Her agoraphobia and depression are brought up quite a bit. But in this film adaptation, it seems like an afterthought.
It also just feels like a supremely unoriginal story, too. Almost everyone is comparing this to a really watered-down version of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and that’s exactly what this is. It borrows a lot from Hitchcock’s filmography and his general style, but it never comes close to actually capturing the magic essence of any of his works. The Woman in the Window comes across as a movie that was made in the hopes of becoming the next great Hitchcockian thriller that is instead dead on arrival.
Alfred Hitchcock is easily one of the most influential filmmakers of all time, and the influence on this film’s director Joe Wright is obvious. Weirdly enough though, Wright is a very talented filmmaker that has his own style that’s unique to him. So… why copy Hitchcock? Wright has certainly made a few duds throughout the course of his career (I’m looking at you Pan) but he’s also made his fair share of great films. Darkest Hour is probably the best of his career thus far and he even directed a wonderful episode of the chilling series Black Mirror.
Wright is an extremely talented guy, and even the films of his that weren’t too good had decent direction from him. His direction for The Woman in the Window was incredibly underwhelming, to say the least.
Amy Adams though, yet again, delivers a wonderful performance that feels so natural and raw. It’s amazing that Adams has yet to take home an Academy Award trophy because it is long overdue. For decades she has been proving herself as a force to be reckoned with, and her work here as Anna Fox is definitely no exception.
If it wasn’t for Adam’s performance, there wouldn’t be too much to get excited about with this film. The atmosphere is admittedly quite good and so is the cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel, but those are not enough ingredients to make an excellent film. The Woman in the Window is sloppy, poorly directed, and a chore to have to sit through. It never should have been released.
Overall Grade: D
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language
Directed by: Joe Wright
Written by: Tracy Letts
Distributed by: Netflix
Release Date: May 14, 2021
Running Time: 100 minutes