Sometimes, a film sits on the shelf for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with quality. Sure, a lot of times delayed movies are delayed because they’re terrible, but it’s not a fait accompli. There could be contractual issues, for example. Or, maybe there’s money problems? The distributor and the filmmaker could disagree. Hell, a company could go under or change hands. All of these things are independent of whether a flick is good or not. The Woman in the Window was delayed in part due to some of these situations, but it also had reshoots and delays that clearly were due to quality. Limping on to Netflix this weekend, it clearly should have stayed on the shelf, since this is pretty terrible.
The Woman in the Window wants to be a mix of Gone Girl and Rear Window. It should be so lucky. Insipid, nonsensical, and a waste of your time and the talent involved, it just lays there like a lox. Any attempts at generating excitement or tension fall flat. It’s almost shocking how poorly executed this is. Then again, considering how nobody seemed to want to release this, and Netflix is more or less dumping it, perhaps it makes sense?
Anna Fox (Amy Adams) is an agoraphobic child psychologist, one who spends her days medicated in a large Harlem home. Her therapist Dr. Landy (Tracy Letts, who also writes) makes house calls, everything is delivered to her, and her only real other in person contact with the world is through her tenant Davis (Wyatt Russell). Phone calls with her estranged husband Ed (Anthony Mackie) suggest a trauma in their past. When a new family moves in across the street, Anna takes to watching them, especially when the son, Ethan Russell (Fred Hechinger) comes to visit. Her training kicks in, suggesting that Ethan may be abused in some way. The less than friendly nature of Alistair Russell (Gary Oldman) doesn’t assuage her suspicions any, either. After a night spent drinking with Jane Russell (Julianne Moore), who comes to her aid after she faints, Anna is all the more curious about the Russell family. Then, while watching them, she sees Jane get stabbed. Anna calls the authorities, but the family claims ignorance. Something is up.
Convinced that what she saw is real, everyone else pretty much thinks that Anna is crazy. It doesn’t help that another woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) arrives claiming to be the real Jane Russell. As Detective Little (Brian Tyree Henry) and his partner Detetive Norelli (Jeanine Serralles) attempt to sift through everything, Anna struggles to prove that she’s not a lunatic. Given what you know about the genre, all must not be as it seems, but this resolution will certainly leave you wanting more.
Amy Adams is totally wasted here, which is quite the accomplishment when she’s in every scene. Hell, so is everyone else, from top to bottom. Adams is best in show, but it’s also not the type of layered performance she’s capable of. Everyone here is a cardboard cutout of a character, mostly talking in cliches or ominous threats. Brian Tyree Henry is the closest thing to a human being, but he has a thankless role that undercuts that. Any cast that includes those two, not to mention Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tracy Letts, Anthony Mackie, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, and Wyatt Russell should be so much better than this.
Joe Wright is so much more talented than he shows with this flick. If there’s a highlight to The Woman in the Window, it’s some of the cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel. Especially when he’s accentuating the production design, which is largely a giant Harlem apartment, you forget that this is a bad film. Danny Elfman‘s score is fine, if forgettable, but Delbonnel succeeds where everyone else doesn’t. Wright’s direction and pacing are way off the mark, while the tone is all over the place. Letts has screenplay credit, but it was supposedly re-written to some degree by Tony Gilroy. Whomever gets “credit” here, it’s more blame, since little of what you’re seeing makes any sense.
The Woman in the Window ideally should be a fun B-movie. it certainly aspires to ape successful examples of the genre. Instead, it’s stuck in an insipid loop of psychobabble, wasted performances, and attempts to “shock” the audience. The book might be great, but the film sucks. All the A-list talent in the world can’t change that. Alas. This long delayed effort probably should have stayed that way.