First there was Hillbilly Elegy, and now we have The Woman in the Window. No matter how hard Netflix tries to create a good film in collaboration with the lovely Amy Adams, a well-established and award winning actress, their efforts seem to fall flat. From their most recent partnership comes a (somewhat) original, female-led version of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window suspense film. Amy Adams plays Anna Fox, a former child psychologist who remains isolated inside her home due to severe agoraphobia (an anxiety disorder that is triggered in outdoor/public spaces).
Hopped up on a cocktail of various medications and alcohol, Anna spends a great deal of her time observing her new neighbors across the street, the Russell family, by looking through their apartment windows (because blinds and curtains don’t exist in this cinematic universe, I guess). Despite being a complete recluse, she befriends the mom, Jane Russell (Julianne Moore) and her son, Ethan, who later admits to Anna that his father Alistair (Gary Oldman) is abusive. Fairly early on in the film, while Anna is up to her usual not-so-sneaky spying, she witnesses Jane being brutally stabbed in her apartment. Apparently, the killer in this film also lacks the common sense to close the blinds when they are murdering somebody.
What follows is Anna’s frenzied attempt to call the police, only to discover that “Mrs. Russell,” who now shows up in the form of actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, is still alive and well. Writing her off as being a confused and unreliable source, both the police and the Russell family refuse to believe Anna’s drastic claims. The rest of the film follows Anna’s desperate efforts to prove that what she witnessed was real, including various murder suspects and the paranoia that she may be next. The film concludes with a shocking (but boring and poorly done) twist.
Given the premise, this plot had the potential to be exciting and interesting. While the decades-old Rear Window may feel a little silly and outdated now, The Woman in the Window seemed like a promising modern rendition of the classic suspense tale. Even the trailer was well done, and made me excited to watch the film upon release. However, there were several elements in the film that ultimately made it a painfully unwatchable flop.
At the forefront of the film’s plot and storytelling is the essential main character, Anna Fox. From her unchecked medication dosage and alcoholism to her evident aversion to going outside, it’s clear that Anna is an extremely unreliable narrator. The movie, combined with Amy Adams’ acting, portrays Anna as a mentally unstable crazy person. She has a hard time making friends, and an even harder time getting people to believe what she says.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t like how the film over-exaggerated Anna’s “clinically insane” personality. By forcing her character to be constantly teetering on the edge of mental instability, Adams’ acting feels far too forced and fake to be convincing. She spends most of the film in a state of panicked mania, frantically responding to the events and people around her with crazed bewilderment. Aside from coming off as strained, mediocre acting, this portrayal also feels like a rude and inaccurate representation of people who actually have agoraphobia. Additionally, Anna’s character is given a cliche “tragic backstory” that doesn’t actually add anything to the plot, and overall feels like a waste of time.
The biggest issue in this film by far, however, is the writing. Terrible, terrible writing. If you told me that the dialogue in this film was written in the span of four hours by an unpaid intern, I would absolutely believe you—that’s how bad it was. Even with an all-star cast that includes Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, and the iconic Gary Oldman, their acting talent couldn’t save the poorly written dialogue and story. It almost feels like whoever wrote the dialogue spent the entirety of the pandemic in isolation, and completely forgot what actual human conversations are like.
Although Adams’ weird bursts of manic and over-dramatic acting are tough to watch, the scenes where the characters talk to each other are far worse. Every conversation that takes place is shaky, disjointed, and doesn’t add any kind of plot development to the film. The talking scenes will just have you wishing the movie would end sooner. Even when the surprise murder culprit has their dramatic reveal at the conclusion of the film, their “I’m a villain” monologue is so painful and forced, you can’t even appreciate the writers’ effort to add a little twist in the story.
To put things simply, this movie is just plain bad. An unexciting story, poorly written dialogue, and subpar acting all culminate into a film that you are just better off not watching. If you really want to know what happens at the end, then read the Wikipedia plot summary; I can’t bring myself to recommend this movie to anyone. If Netflix (for whatever reason) decides to make yet another original film that stars Amy Adams, then hopefully the third time will be the charm.