The Woman in the Window (2021)
"The Woman in the Window" stars Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Anthony Mackie, Fred Hechinger, Wyatt Russell, Brian Tyree Henry, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Julianne Moore. Released on Netflix on May 14, 2021, the film is about a woman who witnessed the murder of her next-door neighbor.
The film was directed by Joe Wright, who also directed films such as "Pride & Prejudice", "Anna Karenina", and "Darkest Hour". It is based on the 2018 novel of the same name by A. J. Finn. It's moments like this where you have no idea whether you actually saw something or your mind is playing tricks on you. This is that moment. The month of adult-rated thrills continues with yet another film that transitioned from a theatrical release to a direct-to-streaming release. Initially scheduled for a 2019 release, the film was delayed twice due to some re-edits from Fox (owned by Disney) and the COVID-19 pandemic. Shortly after, the studio decided to release it on a streaming service instead, with Netflix being the top choice. Disney+ would've been another option since it's now a Disney property. Unfortunately, as it turns out, it's not "family-friendly" enough to join alongside the Disney Princesses and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even though I wasn't familiar with the source material it's based on, I was interested in watching it due to its all-star cast and director Joe Wright. For those who don't know, I started following Wright's filmography after experiencing his lackluster Peter Pan prequel six years ago. A decision that I later regretted. However, I began to grow more attached to him after watching "Darkest Hour", which became one of my favorite films of 2017. As a result, I became more interested in seeing how he'll handle a film that's akin to Hitchcock's mystery classic "Rear Window". Was it a mystery that's worth investigating, or was it something that should've been left alone? Let's find out.
The story centers on Anna Fox (Adams), a child psychologist who lives alone in a Harlem brownstone apartment. She has agoraphobia that prevents her from leaving her room. Her housebound state resulted in her observing all of her neighbors through her window. She later meets and befriends the recently moved Russell family, which consists of Alistair (Oldman), his wife Jane (Moore), and their teenage son Ethan (Hechinger). One day, Anna witnesses Jane, who is being stabbed to death by a mysterious culprit. She tells the police what she saw, but no one believed her. When Anna discovers that Alistair's wife is actually alive and is a different person (Leigh), she sets out to unravel the mystery while the people around her question her beliefs. If you can't already tell, this is Joe Wright's interpretation of "Rear Window". The film started with an exciting concept. It's a murder mystery that's shown from the perspective of a woman who's not only afraid to go outside but has also been taking medications and drinking alcohol daily. So we have a character that allows its viewers to question whether what she saw was real or a hallucination due to her medication. This would've made it a nerve-racking psychological experience that'll leave me completely speechless. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. It had the qualities needed to make a compelling thriller, but Joe Wright failed to use them to his full advantage. This is more along the lines of a traditional and mundane murder mystery than a deep and frightening character study of a depressed person with agoraphobia. The film had the right idea on its direction in the first act in terms of its themes. However, by the time it arrives at the halfway point, it decided to take a safe approach towards its subject matter by sticking with its usual twisty formula near the end. Combine that with some predictable elements and its reliance on style over storytelling, and you got a below-average whodunit that not even Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of. The way it handled the thrills and the twist ending was fine, but the impact from those two elements didn't click for me. This is also one of the films where there was more effort in the cast than the execution itself. Amy Adams stood out the most thanks to her chilling and engaging performance as Anna. When you have a character who's struggling with a specific phobia, there needs to be an actor who's talented enough to make them believable. In my opinion, Adams managed to fit that description pretty well. Gary Oldman and Wyatt Russell also did suitable jobs with their performances as Alistair Russell and David Winter, respectively. When I mentioned that it relied more on style than creating an enticing story, I mean that in a literal sense. Admittedly, the film's cinematography had some nicely crafted shots that featured smooth panning and nifty transitions, but they did very little to enhance its storytelling to its potential. It felt like the cinematography was trying a bit too hard to mimic the other stylish thrillers that came out before this film.
Overall, "The Woman in the Window" squanders its promising concept in favor of a run-of-the-mill murder mystery that's more on appearance than on shock value. The film's cast, notably Adams, and its cinematography made it somewhat watchable. Still, everything else lacked a good amount of emotional impact it was going for, including its story and thrills. As a result, it's an inferior knock-off to Hitchcock's "Rear Window" that's best off remaining as a mystery.
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