After a series of delays, The Woman in the Window finally premiered on Netflix this past weekend. Starring Amy Adams—and based on the 2018 novel of the same name—the film tries to be a smart psychological thriller to a complete fault. Unfortunately, it’s a tangled mess that fails to adequately tell the story it’s so desperate to give us.
The film follows Anna (Adams), an agoraphobic woman living alone after separating from her husband Ed (Anthony Mackie). She heavily medicates and drinks, while also spending time peering at her neighbors through the windows. One day she notices a new family moving in across the street. Soon after, the wife Jane (Julianne Moore) stops by and the two women bond over some wine.
On another evening, Anna hears a starling scream from across the street and looks to see Jane being attacked. When she calls police, they arrive alongside Jane’s husband Alistair (Gary Oldman). He claims Anna has never even met his wife, though she’s insistent they have. Then “Jane” (Jennifer Jason Leigh) arrives, a completely different woman, to reassure her.
With her reality being called into question, Anna spirals, certain the real Jane was murdered. But as she digs deeper to prove what happened, she’ll uncover secrets she’s not prepared to face.
The Woman in the Window has had quite the journey to land on audiences screens. Originally slated for an October 2019 release, the film was delayed to 2020 for re-edits — which can either improve a film or be a sign that something is amiss. Of course 2020 had other plans altogether and the film was later sold to Netflix, which brings us to now.
There’s no denying the film, and I’ll assume book, was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. We’ve seen films successfully pull off a “reimagining” of its concept, as seen in 2007’s Disturbia. However, this film starts off on the wrong foot almost immediately.
The set up is alright. There’s enough there to get a feel for something almost worthwhile. But it quickly takes a turn towards chaotic and frustrating. While there are a couple of cool editing tricks, the majority are a bit overdone and disjointed. I understand the point was perhaps to disorient the viewer, much in the way our protagonist is, but it’s not as artistic as intended.
Not even its talented cast could redeem the film. I wanted to love the puzzling and mysterious performances, but everything was so over-the-top that it felt so out of place and again, just frustrating. Characters simply don’t make sense. Not their motives or reactions, personalities are shifty; but not in ways that help progress the story.
We’re given a somewhat interesting little plot twist just ahead of the third act, but it’s simply muddled by everything else going on. The entire film makes me wonder what the original edit looked like. This movie feels like it was cut up and pieced back together — and it’s simply not worth your time.