The Woman in the Window movie review: Trashy Amy Adams film is almost as bad as Parineeti's Girl on the Train
The Woman in the Window movie review: Despite a stacked cast and stylish visuals, director Joe Wright squanders a bestselling novel's mass appeal and wastes the talents of Amy Adams.
Just how bad could The Woman in the Window have been for two studios and a stacked cast to distance themselves from it, only for it to be released with almost no fanfare on Netflix? The answer: really bad.
Director Joe Wright wrangles some of the most decorated actors working today, and squanders the cinematic potential of one of the most unabashedly entertaining thriller novels of the last few years. The Woman in the Window, based on the bestseller by tainted writer AJ Finn, is a mess of a movie — a lurid and ludicrous exercise in excess.
Watch The Woman in the Window trailer here
Star Amy Adams’ six Academy Award nominations count for nothing as she flails about with a script as empty as the house in which her character is trapped. She plays Anna Fox, an agoraphobic child psychologist who kills time in her New York brownstone by spying on her new neighbours, and one day, witnesses what she thinks is a murder.
It’s a classic setup — a cross between Hitchcock and Antonioni — but Wright peppers the film with visual references so heavy-handed that it soon becomes unpalatable. The filmmaker has been known to show off — he’s admitted as much in multiple interviews — and it’s not difficult to imagine why he’d be attracted to the material.
The novel became a runaway success in 2018, a few years after Gone Girl ushered in a new era of mommy thrillers. It was inventive, yet familiar; genuinely surprising but sort of a safe bet. The series of scandals that followed its author was perhaps the first sign that the book, and any subsequent adaptation of it, were cursed.
The Woman in the Window was originally slated for a 2019 release, but was pulled from the schedule after poor test screenings. Then, Covid-19 played spoilsport, before Netflix came knocking and scooped up the sorry remains. Its twitching corpse was dealt a death blow mere days before its debut, when producer Scott Rudin was cancelled for fostering a toxic workplace environment.
It was Rudin’s call, reportedly, to wrench control from Wright and bring in veteran re-shooter Tony Gilroy to complete the picture. Having watched the final film, it’s difficult to imagine what they must have started with.
With the drama largely restricted to the brownstone and Dr Fox having to settle with herself for company, Amy Adams visibly overcompensates by consistently aiming for a campy tone in her performance. There is evidence to support the theory that this is what Wright intended all along. In one scene, he smears the screen with schlocky blood splatter, while composer Danny Elfman’s busy score works up a sweat as it struggles to make up for the film’s tonal inconsistencies. But despite some left-of-field creative choices, The Woman in the Window is ultimately undone by an utter lack of suspense.
Wright appears to be in some sort of rush; the film is as much a murder victim as Dr Fox’s neighbour, edited not on a premier software, but with a hacksaw. There is little room to breathe as characters drop in, mostly unannounced, to do little else but propel the plot.
As expected, the only thing worth writing about is the work of cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, who routinely outshines everyone else on whatever project he chooses to grace with his presence. Even in a bad film, Delbonnel can’t help but bring his A-game, with impeccably composed frames and a stylised colour palette that instantly evokes memories of far better films.
And this brings us to a crucial factor that separates something like The Woman in the Window from, say, the recent Hindi remake of The Girl on the Train — another film coincidentally picked up by Netflix. While both are unequivocally bad, at least The Woman in the Window resembles a real movie. It’s incoherent, yes, but never incompetent.
The Woman in the Window
Director - Joe Wright
Cast - Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Wyatt Russell, Bryan Tyree Henry, Fred Hechinger, Anthony Mackie, Jennifer Jason Leigh
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The author tweets @RohanNaahar