The Woman in the Window review: a bestselling thriller becomes a clunky movie

Among the most significant movie patterns of the 2010s was bestselling books being adjusted into movies like Gone Woman and tv series like Sharp Things and Huge Little Lies, generating a brand-new age of mental thrillers. A late addition to the pack: The Lady in the Window, adjusting A.J. Finn’s 2018 book. The movie, directed by Joe Wright (Pride & Bias) with a movie script by Tracy Letts (Bug, Killer Joe), was mostly shot in 2018, however postponed by reshoots in 2019, and its prepared 2020 theatrical release was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now launching on Netflix, the movie is an elegant, melodramatic addition to the thriller-adaptation pattern, however it comes down with Letts’ loyalty to the initial book.

Anna Fox (Amy Adams) is an agoraphobe who hasn’t left her home for 11 months. Formerly a kid psychiatrist, she now invests her days seeing her next-door neighbors live out their lives while she blends alcohol with prescription meditation and talks on the phone with her separated spouse and child. The movie’s action starts when her brand-new next-door neighbors attempt to go to — teenager Ethan Russell (Fred Hechinger), and later on his mom Jane Russell (Julianne Moore). Not long after their arrival, Anna sees Jane get stabbed in her home, and calls the authorities prior to losing consciousness. When she awakens, the police officers remain in her home with another lady calling herself Jane Russell, and Ethan is stating Anna has actually never ever fulfilled his mom.

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The secret of what occurred to the lady Anna fulfilled, and what’s going on in your home throughout the street, is muddled by Anna’s undependable storyteller syndrome. It’s a typical trope in comparable thriller-novel adjustments, like Gone Woman and The Woman on the Train. Anna’s undependable nature originates from a mix of her medication — which is suggested to have negative effects, consisting of hallucinations — and her own fear, as she spies on the Russell home through a DSLR electronic camera, in shots similar to Back Window. The movie goes all in on the psychological-thriller motivations, with scenes from the timeless noir movies Anna sees combining into memories of a previous injury. That occasion likewise ends up being a trick for the motion picture to decipher.

The movie’s plot is a bit thick on the secret, though that’s anticipated, thinking about the book it’s adaptating. Finn composed The Lady in the Window in very first individual, which leaves more space to discuss the complexities of the plot. Rather of including narrative, the technique lots of book-to-film adjustments utilize, all the exposition and world-building in the movie happens through discussion, in Anna’s call with her spouse Ed (Anthony Mackie) or in her treatment sessions. The sluggish unraveling of information blended with the imaginary components make the great information of the plot a bit tough to follow, however the primary secret runs its course efficiently. The movie’s reshoots were triggered by baffled audience responses to preliminary test screenings, and it’s simple to comprehend why they may have struggled to follow the story.

The unreliable-narrator trope can influence audience hesitation, however Wright does an excellent job of making Anna’s viewpoint the centerpiece of observation for the audience too. He accomplishes part of that through atmosphere, making the molding brownstone where the entire movie takes place both claustrophobic and cavernous through the lighting and staging. The sudden appearances of characters in the house in certain scenes adds to the effect, and so does a stunning scene where the outside world is brought into the brownstone in a setpiece reminiscent of Wright’s 2012 adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

The glimpses of other brownstones also rely on Anna’s POV, as we see them through her camera lens; the scenes that peer into other houses are at a remove and within Anna’s view at the same time. There’s no irony where the audience knows something before Anna does, which helps make the film an engrossing psychological thriller.

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As expected from the big names on the roster, all of the cast gives commendable performances. Adams’ sharpness as caustic, paranoid Anna includes a vulnerability that fills out her character, and her performance holds the movie together. Every actor, including Julianne Moore and Jennifer Jason Leigh as the two Jane Russells, fill their parts admirably, even if they only have a few scenes. Hechinger is formidable as Ethan, striking a balance between sensitive and guarded, and holding his own in scenes with Adams. Gary Oldman also plays a great obvious villain as patriarch Alistair Russell.

The faults of The Woman in the Window are in part unavoidable, because of the faithfulness of the adaptation and the intricacies of its source material. Anna is belligerent straight out of the gate, without much character-building to explain why. She reads like an over-the-top example of an unlikable female protagonist. Anna’s tenant David, played by Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s Wyatt Russell, feels like a pawn dropped in to be an obvious suspect, rather than a full character. All the plot elements, red herrings, dramatic encounters, and emotional breakdowns that made the novel a bestseller translate to the screen as melodramatic. A frantic woman calling out an open window, “Where is your mother?” to a teenager: melodrama.

While The Woman in the Window succeeds at being a faithful adaptation of the book, letting readers see the story play out beat for beat on screen, as a movie, it’s so dramatic that it’s a bit silly. Not every book that generates enough buzz is suitable for the screen, and filmmakers can’t always bully their way through a faulty plot by adding style and A-list actors. The Woman in the Window tries admirably, however fails to make a masterpiece out of a book-club read.

The Lady in the Window is now streaming on Netflix.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.