Tuesday, March 28

No amount of wine can make the “Woman of the House” parody work, despite its charismatic star

Is there such a thing as a “slow burn” satire? Here’s a follow-up question: Is trying to describe “The woman in the house across the street from the girl in the window” as such nicer than it deserves?

The answers, in order, are no and yes.

One person cannot be blamed for digging for purpose or reason in a Kristen Bell vehicle, one whose satirical intent is alleged in its ridiculously long title. A headline like that draws the viewer in with the promise of brainless “Don’t be a menace to society while drinking your juice under the hood” antics.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better performer than Bell to pull off something at that level. “The Good Place” shows that he is just as at home with wacky comedy as he is with drama. Double down on that talent in any decent spoof of mediocre psychological thrillers, and ideally all we’d have to do is sit back and watch all parties involved alchemize the TV movie can into gold medal nonsense.

But its writers Rachel Ramras, Hugh Davidson, Larry Dorf never quite exercise their license to spill the action into the realm of ridiculousness, which is where it belongs. Instead, “The Woman of the House,” and that’s all the title I’m going to explain from this point on, flirts with utter insanity but never somersaults into it, and that’s a mistake.

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Bell plays straight into the opening episodes and ramps up the craziness as the plot progresses, trusting the viewer to find the parody in the details. But when we meet her character Anna (Kristen Bell) there’s not much to laugh about. Anna drinks heavily to drown out a lasting pain that freezes her in place. It’s been three years since her husband Douglas (Michael Ealy) left her and her career as a painter has stalled. He also takes large doses of Clonazepam, causing him to lose track of time and occasionally hallucinate, as in movies like this one.

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When handsome Neil (Tom Riley) moves across the street with his young daughter Emma (Samsara Yett), Anna finds a reason to snap out of her depression. But the more she finds out about Neil, the less will she has to live again. Until, that is, the night he sees a woman bleeding from the neck at Neil’s living room window. Then the nosy neighbor transforms into a citizen detective, bringing trouble to his and her house.

Some of you may have noticed that this plot borrows handsomely. . . no, it directly takes the script from Joe Wright’s 2021 Netflix flop “The Woman in the Window,” which earned its star Amy Adams a nomination for the prestigious She Deserves New Agent Award from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists .

You’d think this limited series would look at everything the flop did wrong and go crazy dancing all over it, amplifying its failings into one big slapstick. Instead, he makes other mistakes, some of which kill his comedic potential.

At this point, I’m compelled to drop a spoiler, albeit one that is revealed minutes after the opening episode, because it deflates a considerable amount of the comedy that follows.

At the beginning of the premiere we learn that Anna’s grief is weighed down by the death of her daughter who, like the girl across the street, would be around nine years old. The circumstances of the girl’s death are ultimately established as bizarre and ridiculous, and coupled with a recurring running gag involving the epitaph on her little tombstone, it’s all supposed to be hilarious.

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But Bell is actually too convincing playing a damaged woman burdened with dialogue that’s only slightly more complicated than what we’d find in a Lifetime movie script. That means “The Woman in the Blah Blah” is just as funny as the recurring gag of Bell pouring bulky glasses of red wine to the brim while believably behaving as a bereaved mother with a drinking problem.

The cartoon works to the extent that one can laugh at it destroying one Corningware pan after another for the silliest reasons and others that make sense if you’ve ever battled the fog of despair.

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Taken together, these fleeting moments lead to the realization that the show’s creators and cast have conflated satire with absurdity. The former finds hilarity in hackneyed entertainment genres and tired tropes. The latter helps a person make sense of overwhelming sadness, like a depressed guy who constantly loses his house key on a terrible day and has people return it to him, only for it to break in the lock while he’s trying. to enter your apartment. (By the way, this device was recently used on a critically acclaimed TV show.)

But serious skits cushion the impact of such niceties, souring what should be jokes into examples of bad form that rely heavily on the viewer seeking out the laughs the joker swears are right in front of us, thus defeating the Serie. effectiveness as a work of satire.

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Of course, there is a natural compulsion to find something positive in a project that should have been a success for Bell, an actor most people enjoy deeply. The best thing that can be said about “The Woman in the House” is that it has the same weight and value as your average cable movie about women in peril. But if you expect more from Bell and everyone else in the cast, their shortcomings just kill us.

“The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window” airs on Netflix on Friday, January 28. Watch the trailer below, via YouTube.

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