Review: Netflix's all-star 'Woman in the Window' isn't a mystery worth solving
After a year spent mostly stuck inside and not being around people, it’d be nice to watch a crafty psychological thriller with Amy Adams mostly stuck inside and not being around people that’s actually good. Instead, we get “The Woman in the Window.”
Directed by Joe Wright (“Atonement”) and based on the popular A.J. Finn novel, “Woman” (★★ out of four; rated R; streaming on Netflix Friday) is an all-star slow-burn mystery for much of its 102-minute runtime until it suddenly decides to become a vomitous reveal-fest doling out all its twists as fast as possible. A storytelling choice, for sure, and one that wastes a talented crew of actors and fails to pay proper homage to the old-school films it references.
At least most folks nowadays can relate to the isolated existence of Anna Fox (Adams). An agoraphobic child psychologist separated from her husband (Anthony Mackie), Anna never leaves her massive three-story New York City townhouse, checks in with her spouse and daughter (Mariah Bozeman) by phone regularly and gets the occasional drop-in from her own shrink (writer Tracy Letts, who adapted Finn’s book). She also mixes wine and her meds way too often, watches a lot of film noir and keeps watch on the outside world – including her new neighbors, the Russells – a la Jimmy Stewart in “Rear Window.”
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Although it’s not quite spelled out as such (like many things in this movie), Anna seems to have a reputation for being the neighborhood weirdo although she strikes up a quick kinship with teenage Ethan Russell (Fred Hechinger). One Halloween night, kids pelt her windows with eggs and she passes out after the mental struggle to get the door open. She wakes up to meet Jane Russell (Julianne Moore), her redheaded savior who ran the whippersnappers off, and instantly connects with this vivacious woman with a sailor’s tongue.
A couple days later, Anna’s snooping on the Russells when she hears a ruckus and watches a bloody incident happen to Jane and her new friend disappears, leading Anna to call the cops. The authorities show up to investigate, chilly banker Alistair Russell (Gary Oldman) thinks she’s nuts, and then Anna meets his wife, the very blonde Jane (Jennifer Jason Leigh). From there Anna struggles to figure out what’s real and what’s not amid coming to grips with her own past.
Wright’s definitely put together a nice cast, which also includes Brian Tyree Henry as a police detective concerned for Anna’s well-being and Wyatt Russell as the irritable and shady musician/handyman renting Anna’s basement. Plus, despite limited screen time, Oldman really gets to lean into his darkly condescending side as Anna’s increasingly volatile neighbor.
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Adams is up to her usual solid standards, though much of the first half of the movie is Anna looking out a window or being scared. That’s fine in theory from an acting standpoint, but there’s a definite lack of character development for her, as “Woman” is much more invested in the mystery than its leading lady.
Wright also rethinks the color palette of a high-profile Hollywood mystery, eschewing the monochromatic look of old films for trippy spectrums of blues, pinks and oranges. Your mileage may vary there, though it works when Wright throws in some interestingly fantastical imagery when Anna comes out of her drug-and-booze fog to see the truth of her situation.
By that point, it’s already pretty clear we should close the book on this forgettable mystery “Woman.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'The Woman in the Window' review: Amy Adams leads forgettable mystery