Borrowing heavily from Rear Window, Joe Wright’s The Woman in the Window tries its best to imitate the classic film, but gets stuck between tones and fails to deliver anything other than rote thrills.
Amy Adams stars as Dr. Anna Fox, a child psychologist who lives alone in a cavernous New York apartment after becoming separated from her husband (Anthony Mackie) and daughter. Anna is agoraphobic and observes her neighbors from her second story window. She takes note of the Russell family, who move in across the street.
Anna observes her neighbors as well as her tenant David (Wyatt Russell), who lives in her basement. She eventually meets Ethan Russell (Fred Hechinger) and learns about his father Alistair (Gary Oldman) and eventually meets his mother Jane (Julianne Moore), who invites herself inside and befriends Anna over glasses of wine. One night, Anna sees Jane being stabbed to death across the street and calls the police. Detective Little (Biran Tyree Henry) responds with incredulity, as the three Russells are all alive, including a woman who claims to the be Jane (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
The film handles everything with patience, but moves at a steady pace. Wright and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel shoot the apartment as if it is never-ending, but with a real sense of environment. The production design lends itself to the narrative in that everything is upscale, but nothing feels modern. Almost like the house is a piece of property lost in time.
Adams anchors the proceedings with steady hands and unsure eyes. For the first hour of the film, the actress displays anxiety and worry, but never feels truly crazy. Once the possibility of her sanity begins to seep in, Adams turns to near tranquility before again doubting her own insanity. For a film as campy as this one can be, Adams really delivers the goods, despite her belief this is prestige cinema.
The rest of the cast is left without much to do as Oldman, Leigh and Russell do what they can with lightly written characters. Henry acts as a calming presence of authority who isn’t quick to judge or diagnose Anna but still has a job to do. His empathy shines through in his scenes. On the other side of things, Hechinger has a much larger part than you would think and is the weak link of the ensemble. His characterization is reduced to twitches and apprehension instead of an actual human.
The film itself can’t decide how serious it wants to be. Sometimes, the narrative is deadly serious and wants to be the high-minded adult thriller it supposes to be, while also indulging in B-movie schlock and camp. Personally, I think the film would have benefited from the more ridiculous aspects, but struggles to accidentally balance the two tones. Adams, Henry, Mackie and Russell all exist in the serious film, while Oldman, Leigh and Hechinger are performing in the schlock. Only Julianne Moore finds the correct balance between the two competing tones.
Despite all its problems, The Woman in the Window is a throwback thriller and one that I enjoyed, but it fails to reach its lofty heights and will end up in the inevitable trash heap of forgettable Netlfix thrillers.