TThe creators of the Sub-Hitchcockian thriller The Woman in the Window want to make you believe that its central mystery has to do with the who’s, why’s and hows of a gruesome murder in Manhattan. But whatever sinister fascination we may have with figuring out how it all ends is related less to the twists and turns of the story and more to the mess that surrounds it, like looking at the wreckage of a car accident not to see who was injured but to see how much. destroyed is the vehicle.
It was a package that talked about the city: a stellar cast attached to a blockbuster book adaptation with an acclaimed filmmaker and Tony-winning playwright who brought it to life, but has all the makings of a cursed classic. Production: disastrous test screenings, frenzied new filming, a late second writer, a swirling controversy, a frenzied Netflix sale. Ultimately, what happened off-screen has become much more interesting than what was finally thrown in front of us. The novel it was based on, by AJ Finn, was part of the post-Gone Girl boom in domestic thrillers centered around fractured female leads, and after David Fincher’s adaptation became a hit, Fox hoped for repeat success. , conquering rights quickly. . Atonement and Darkest Hour director Joe Wright came on board to add some flair, along with Tracy Letts in charge of the adaptation, and a stacked cast that included Letts himself, Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Anthony. Mackie, Brian Tyree Henry, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. . How could it go wrong?
But when filming ended in 2018, test audiences weren’t impressed and producer Scott Rudin (see, damn) hired professional repairman Tony Gilroy (who was also late to help Rogue One) to handle the new footage. Things did not improve, release dates were not met, Finn (real name Dan Mallory) was the subject of savage exposure from New Yorkers alleging a series of sociopathic behaviors, and once the pandemic hit, Fox unloaded its damaged products. to Netflix. , where he now limps his way to his smartphone. It’s a fraction away from being a total disaster for the books (there are brief bittersweet glimpses of what it could have been, especially in the first act) but it’s as ungainly as one would expect given its backstory, better than a cautionary tale that a real movie.
The woman is child psychologist Anna (Adams) and the window is in gentrified Harlem. She is an agoraphobia, lives on a diet of red wine, antidepressants and old movies, estranged from her husband (Mackie) and daughter who no longer live with her and obsessed with the lives of those whom she can see from her stone house. When the Russells move across the street, she diverts her attention to their problems, which unfold in her living room for all to see. One night, the arguments become more extreme when Anna sees the matriarch (Moore) murdered. But when the police arrive, Mr. Russell (Oldman) also arrives, who brings his wife (Leigh) along with him, very alive and very different from who Anna thought she was.
The opening scenes, while flawed and already speak to the problems that eventually weigh on the film, are effective in short bursts. The setting is derivative but intriguing and while some of Wright’s touches are commanding from the get-go, it’s cleverly put together (its premiere on Netflix ultimately helps make the movie look so much better compared to most of its originals) and Anna’s quirky and cleverly untidy home. makes for an attractive and dramatic place. But the cracks soon turn into abysses; Ironically, when Anna’s world begins to descend into chaos, so does the movie. It is clear that no one, from Wright’s directing to Letts ‘adaptation to Gilroy’s adaptation of Adams’ performance, is sure or even agree on what they are actually doing and what tone the material requires. We’re firmly in airport kettle territory, with a mystery of movement through superior fountains, but the high-end treatment given to it suggests there is more than just soulless mechanics at its center (spoiler: not what there are) .
Anna is as finely sketched by Letts (and probably Gilroy) as she is directly played by Adams, another off-key performance by an actor still enduring the horror of last year’s heinous Hillbilly Elegy. She leans toward a squeaky histrionic, much like an Oldman who winces in pain (a scene of the pair trying to overreact loudly on each other is one of the film’s many low points), and what It hurts is that possibly his best work to date was on Sharp Objects playing other addict tortured in other adaptation of a hit thriller, such a successful twist that it’s hard to believe we’re seeing the same person now. You can’t pick up material here that badly needs a star spin to make it work (see Emily Blunt’s grueling transport from The Girl on the Train a few years ago) and instead it’s two little roles that stick out. In just one scene, Moore is electric, hinting at depths absent from most of the script, while, like his son, the relatively newcomer Fred Hechinger has an awkward natural charm that feels more rooted in a reality much of which of the film is not tied.
Even if the prestige trappings were removed, even if this were told in a more creepy, or at least less affected way (Wright’s weird touch is embarrassingly misjudged), the actual mystery Anna has to unravel is surprisingly vulgar. The first major twist becomes so blindingly obvious early on that it’s close to an insult that Wright reveals it as if we don’t already know it. And when everything is ready, when we finally know who did what and why, it’s such a shrug of the ending ending that all the new shooting, the talent, the money, it’s all exposed to be a maddening waste of time. Curiosity may bring you here, but boredom will drive you away.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism