Anna Fox (Amy Adams) witnesses a murder, but was it a figment of her imagination, a hallucination, or did it really happen? Perhaps the biggest criticism that could be levied against The Woman in the Window is its mediocrity. Based on a novel by A. J. Finn and directed by Joe Wright (Atonement, Darkest Hour), The Woman in the Window is a finely assembled team of talent in front and behind the camera that unfortunately results in shallow nothingness.
Its ‘cursed’ production and the controversial author of its source material provide more potential entertainment value than the finished product. Perhaps for Netflix it would have been wiser to commission a documentary series on the film’s difficult post-production than to have released it in the first place. Originally set for release in October 2019, it went through development hell before Fox flogged it to Netflix. If the film is this mediocre after re-editing and numerous delays, I dread to imagine the state it was in beforehand.
With an ensemble that includes Amy Adams, Anthony Mackie, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Wyatt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Tyree Henry and newcomer Fred Hechinger, it all amounts to disappointing mediocrity. Whilst Moore and Henry are standouts, they aren’t given enough screen time to add some oomph to the film and as for Adams and Oldman, this is a surprisingly forgettable turn for both.
For Wright, his influences are clear. The director pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock throughout the 100-minute runtime. There are the obvious plot similarities to Rear Window as well as scenes which are reminiscent of Vertigo and Psycho. Though despite his clear admiration for Hitch, he fails to emulate anywhere near the same level of suspense. This is due to the film’s odd pacing and lacklustre screenplay by credited scribe Tracy Letts (who also has a minor role in the film). There are times where Wright’s camera dollies within Adams’ house, reminding the viewer that like Adams’ character, we are peeing into somewhere we shouldn’t. It’s small moments like these that should add to a film rather than stick out.
The similarity to Panic Room is clear throughout, a film who Wright is also influenced by yet is unable to achieve anywhere near the same suspense David Fincher did with a similar space. The films lack of suspense sticks out like a sore thumb when considering what Hitchcock achieved in Rear Window with a stationary James Stewart sitting in one room for 115 minutes. This is one of the many issues with The Woman in the Window. How can you produce a film with a plot rife full of suspense and yet not have any?
Hypothetically, this was such a promising project. 6-time Oscar nominee Adams leading an all-star ensemble in the follow up to Wright’s triumphant Darkest Hour. However, it is nothing more than a project that could and should have been much more. It is easy to criticise such an ensemble, but the script and direction isn’t faultless either. Why cast such talented actors, if you won’t utilise them? The characters lack depth. Fox, our protagonist who is fleshed out, still feels shallow, though it isn’t like Adams’ performance is vying to salvage that. One of the many reasons why Rear Window succeeds is because of the depth Hitchcock provides to all his characters, despite us only viewing them through Stewart’s window. Make no mistake, The Woman in the Window is not a bad film nor are Wright, Letts and the ensemble involved bad at their respective jobs. The film does have its moments but given the talent involved, the final product should have amounted to something far better, than the mediocrity that was produced.