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

Entertainment

Polygon 14 May, 2021 - 06:36pm 34 views

When will the woman in the window be on Netflix?

Seven months later Netflix announced that the titular woman would finally make it to her signature window on May 14, 2021, more than three years after the project was initially announced. Vanity Fair‘The Woman in the Window’ Had a Particularly Rocky Road to Netflix

Where was the woman in the window filmed?

Films shot in New York City. wikipedia.orgThe Woman in the Window (2021 film)

The Woman In The Window has been a little ... snakebit, let's just get that out of the way first. Filmed in 2018 (!), it was scheduled to come out in 2019 (!!), but it was pushed to 2020 for reshoots (!!!) and then to 2021 because of the pandemic (!!!!). That's a long road. Meanwhile, the writer of the novel on which the film is based was the subject of an explosive article in The New Yorker accusing him of a variety of deceptions, and producer Scott Rudin was confronted with allegations as well, particularly about his treatment of assistants.

What's odd is that in a lot of ways, the film, coming to Netflix on May 14, has a solid pedigree. Directed by Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna, Darkest Hour) and starring Amy Adams, it works from a screenplay by playwright Tracy Letts. The cast includes Gary Oldman, Brian Tyree Henry, Julianne Moore, and Anthony Mackie. Furthermore, there's something that seems perhaps timely in a film about agoraphobia coming out at the tail end of, for a lot of people, a period of rather intense isolation.

Adams plays a child psychologist named Anna Fox. She lives alone, but has phone conversations with her (ex-?)husband (Mackie) about how he and their daughter are doing. She does not go out. At all. She explains that she is agoraphobic, although it's initially unclear how long this has been the case. She has everything delivered, and she has the help of a scruffy downstairs tenant (a charming but opaque Wyatt Russell, of Lodge 49 and more recently The Falcon and the Winter Soldier), who does his best to navigate her anxieties.

Anna becomes interested in the new neighbors across the street, and when she meets the teenage son (Fred Hechinger) and the mother (Moore), she begins to feel an attachment. But then she witnesses something from her window — she is, after all, the woman in the ... well, you know — and she becomes concerned. Eventually, she also meets the family patriarch (Oldman). Before long, she's in contact with a cop (Henry) who's unsure what to make of her worries.

The Woman In The Window belongs to a class of domestic thrillers that blossomed with new energy after Gone Girl was published in 2012. It particularly seems to call back to The Girl On The Train, published in 2015 and made into a movie starring Emily Blunt the following year. They resemble each other not just because of their similar titles, but because they are both about women who believe they have seen something and are forced to consider whether, in fact, they have not. They are both about women whose deeply troubled lives call into question nearly everything they say. Narrators not only unreliable to the reader (or the watcher), but unreliable to themselves.

One challenge of this kind of story is that it has a limited number of places to go. Either Anna saw what she thinks she did, or she didn't. Either she will be vindicated, or she will not. We've seen both of those endings before when it comes to the unreliable narrator: We've seen what it looks like when everyone says, "I'm so sorry I doubted you," and we've seen what it looks like when reality closes in and the narrator's unreliability turns out to have been flat-out misdirection.

Thus, as in so many genre pieces, it's all about how you get from point A to point B. Nobody stays with a film just for a jack-in-the-box to either pop out or not. There are some strong moments — and there's some visual inventiveness — as Anna tries to reconcile her present and her past. But without spoiling anything, I'll say that the conclusion of this story just isn't that inventive. It's convoluted — reportedly, confusion is part of why reshoots happened. That's pretty common in stories that endeavor to get to a place where they've tied enough knots in the thread that it's almost impossible for anyone to say they truly anticipated where the story was going. But convoluted just requires throwing in a lot of plot detritus to conceal the truth. Inventiveness means using the formula to do something meaningfully new, and that's where this film falls short.

They might get away with the familiar plot if there were a little more dimension to these characters. This is particularly true of Anna herself, whose fear and paranoia seem ... well, like well-trod cinematic territory of fear and paranoia. The most intriguing character is the one played by Julianne Moore, whose laugh is unsettling and whose friendliness is ominous, but her appearance is regrettably brief. Oldman is playing a well-worn type, as is Hechinger. There's a good scene late in the film between Adams and the wildly charismatic Brian Tyree Henry, and if there had been a way to make the film more of a two-hander between them as she tries to convince him to believe her, it might have felt like a stronger story.

As it is, you get a good cast working with a good director and screenwriter on a story that just doesn't have enough to offer.

Read full article at Polygon

‘The Woman in the Window’ Should Never Have Seen the Light of Day

The Ringer 14 May, 2021 - 08:20pm

Trying to unpack what happened to Joe Wright’s troubled production of a controversial novel on its way to Netflix screens

This is not to say that Wright is untalented. Take 2011’s semi-beguiling action-sci-fi hybrid Hanna, for example. The filmmaker took a standard-issue child-assassin story line—a teenage Bourne Identity—and coded it as a millennial fairy tale, complete with Cate Blanchett as a wicked-stepmother-type emerging during the film’s amusement-park climax from the mouth of a gigantic, fiberglass wolf. (It is quite an image.) Wright’s refusal to just phone things in is admirable, and what makes The Woman in the Window watchable—at least for a while—is the tension between the rote-ness of the material and the striving aestheticism of Wright’s visual sensibility: all florid, Eyes Wide Shut–style backlighting, restless, prowling cinematography, and angles that play up the gorgeous, unsettling architecture of Adams’s character’s towering New York brownstone, with its intricate network of spiral staircases and vertiginously deep drop into a forbidding cement basement.

The visual gamesmanship of The Woman in the Window is relentless, and at times the baroque theatricality of the presentation works the way it’s supposed to, conveying the confusion of a woman caught between a drab, depressive reality and a hallucinatory fantasy life, unsure which is worse. But as hard as Wright works, he can’t come up with anything as strange or destabilizing as the behind-the-scenes narrative that led to his film being delayed, reshot, and shunted off to a streaming premiere via Netflix—a trajectory that was not the original plan.

The Woman in the Window is based on a best-selling, pseudonymous novel by the notorious fabulist Daniel Mallory, whose history of lies, delusions, and borderline plagiaristic writing practices was outlined in a phenomenal 2019 New Yorker profile by Ian Parker—an investigative piece that reads like a thriller. In it, Parker juxtaposed Mallory’s use of an unreliable narrator in his debut against the author’s debunked, real-life claims of his parents’ tragic deaths (research revealed that they were alive and well) and undergoing surgery for a cancerous brain tumor (which he did not have). “Dissembling seemed the easier path,” Mallory wrote in response to the article that went so far as to compare him to Patricia Highsmith’s duplicitous psychopath Tom Ripley—a character Mallory had falsely claimed to have written a dissertation on at Oxford.

Suffice it to say that a movie about a promising young novelist lying his way to the top of the publishing industry is potentially richer than yet another variation on the archetype of the middle-aged woman whose mind is playing tricks on her. Currently, Jake Gyllenhaal is slated to play Mallory in an upcoming Netflix series that promises to split the difference between Nightcrawler and Shattered Glass. (Sounds good, actually.) In the meantime, though, The Woman in the Window arrives as damaged goods, its ending reportedly rewritten by Tony Gilroy after a series of disastrous test screenings.

The scenario of a high-profile genre movie left for dead in the wake of an inter-studio merger and the onset of COVID-19 recalls the story behind The Empty Man, but there isn’t likely to be a cult around The Woman in the Window. The question instead is whether its glossy pile-up of big stars, ridiculous twists, and hand-me-down Hitchcock-isms are enough to qualify it as enjoyably kitschy middlebrow-slasher trash, or if it just falls short of so-bad-it’s-good status—if it’s just bad enough to be bad.

At this point, it’s worth asking whether Amy Adams knows the difference, or cares. The Woman in the Window completes an unofficial trilogy with Hillbilly Elegy and the HBO miniseries Sharp Objects in which the actress—whose past brilliance is undeniable—has striven almost fetishistically to give her characters rough, jagged edges. They’re the kinds of “transformational” roles that attract awards attention—or that’s the idea, anyway. (The Oscars didn’t bite on her hillbilly act.)

Back when Mallory was giving interviews about something other than being a serial liar, he claimed that Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl inspired him to write his own book, but The Woman in the Window doesn’t move like one of Flynn’s thrillers. It’s locked in place, like a one-act play—an exercise in nervous tension and claustrophobia. And it isn’t funny, either, another deficiency that distances it from De Palma as well as Hitchcock, with their twin signature grins. It does, however, boast that irresistibly (and derivatively) Hitchcockian hook of a crime witnessed surreptitiously at a distance by a nosy protagonist—the voyeur imperiled by her own peeping. After entertaining her new across-the-street neighbor Jane (Julianne Moore) during an impromptu, boozy get-together, Anna watches through her window in horror as Jane’s husband, Alistair (Gary Oldman), stabs his wife in the stomach. Anna calls 9-1-1, but the cops don’t believe her story—first because of her wobbly, disheveled condition, and then more definitively when Alistair comes over with a woman he claims to be Jane in tow.

The second Jane is played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, maybe the greatest American actress of her generation, although a case for that title could also be made for Moore. So how does The Woman in the Window manage to waste both of these icons so badly (Leigh doesn’t get two consecutive lines of dialogue), not to mention Oldman? After directing the actor to an Oscar as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, Wright lets Oldman sleepwalk skilfully through a stock sinister-asshole performance bereft of hidden depths. Everything Oldman does here is on the surface, and it’s emblematic of what’s wrong with the movie as a whole. What a story like The Woman in the Window needs in order to work is a genuine sense of ambiguity about what’s going on: the mutation of the everyday into something baffling and phantasmagorical, like in David Fincher’s film version of Gone Girl.

The downside of Wright’s brazen stylization is that the movie has nowhere to go once it’s underway; it’s hard to build anything when your starting point is already over the top. And it doesn’t help that once the script begins showing its hand, the cards it’s holding—as well as the ones stashed up its sleeve—are lousy. Without spoiling the screenplay’s biggest surprise, it’s enough to say that in a movie where so many talented actors seem to be bored, the one member of the supporting cast giving it their all is probably the prime suspect.

To return to Rear Window, the quality that made it fresh and frightening in 1954—and that holds up today, even after that expert and extended Simpsons parody—is that Jimmy Stewart’s voyeurism was so multidirectional. Peering into multiple apartments with his telescope, he could just as easily be seen as a proto-channel-surfer, and the miniature dramas he takes en route to the discovery that his neighbor is a wife killer are suggestive of so many of his own sublimated feelings and desires: for family, for companionship, for sex. Rear Window rarely leaves its hero’s apartment, but its scope feels epic. It vibrates with the possibility that there are secrets out there waiting to be discovered. The Woman in the Window contains its share of beautifully composed frames, but there’s no sense of a reality lying beyond them. If the mark of a great thriller is that it can make you feel trapped—like Rear Window, or The Vanishing, or Parasite—it’s also possible for mediocre ones to hem you in to the point that the final fade-out comes as an act of deliverance. You made it out alive.

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Amy Adams' 'The Woman in the Window' isn't ridiculous enough: Review

Mashable 14 May, 2021 - 08:20pm

But while Anna's narrative eventually reaches definitive, if not terribly satisfying, answers about what's really been going on this whole time, the movie around her never seems to find that clarity. It's a classy psychological thriller — no, it's a surrealist nightmare. It's an emotional exploration of trauma, or a ridiculous potboiler. It's trash that doesn't know it's trash, except when it seems like maybe it does.

At least Anna gets some sort of closure in the end. All audiences will be left with is confusion and disappointment.

What it definitely is, is muddled. The Woman in the Window is based on a novel by A.J. Finn, which clearly took inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window — Anna, played by Amy Adams, is an agoraphobe who spends her days spying on her neighbors from her windows. But mostly, it seems patched together from a word cloud of genre elements that the Netflix audience might like: the possibly unreliable female narrator, the possibly abusive husband, the possibly traumatized minor, the possibly malicious psychiatrist, and an undisclosed past trauma or two to bring it all together. 

They fit together in a way that manages to seem both groaningly predictable (you can guess most of the big twists in this movie based on how much of the run time is left) and wildly haphazard. Red herrings abound, but struggle to add intrigue or misdirection. By the end, the final reveals feel less like payoffs to some grand master plan than like desperate attempts by the storytellers to throw something, anything, in hopes it'll stick. 

At least it's got a bit of style, thanks to director Joe Wright. There are moments of The Woman in the Window that feel genuinely disorienting, even when nothing that weird is happening; a brief shot of an apple suspended in space comes to mind. And the interiors of Anna's enormous Manhattan townhouse (seriously, how does she afford it??) feel appropriately off, tastefully cozy but done in colors that clash just enough to spark uneasiness.

Top-notch performers like Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Tyree Henry further class up the joint, giving The Woman in the Window the sheen of prestige — as does Tracy Letts, who wrote the screenplay and appears onscreen in a supporting role. But none of them really manage to elevate The Woman in the Window beyond its preposterous plotting and paper-thin characters. Even Adams can't make Anna much more than a faint copy of her other, better performances in works like Arrival and Sharp Objects

Indeed, whatever shine these talented people bring ultimately works to the film's detriment. The Woman in the Window is most fun in its bananas climax, which swerves so hard into shock and awe that it finally becomes the cheesy little thriller it should have been all along — but it spends most of its time asking you to please take it very seriously while giving you very little reason to do so, which only results in a deflating sense of boredom. At least Anna gets some sort of closure in the end. All audiences will be left with is confusion and disappointment.

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The Woman in the Window

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