The Woman in the Window is on Netflix: Should you watch?
The latest Netflix release is a star-studded affair. The Woman in the Window has a cast that would make any director salivate. Amy Adams (Arrival), Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), and Julianne Moore (Still Alice) are Academy Award winners or nominees. Anthony Mackie (Outside the Wire) and Wyatt Russell (Overlord) are fresh off a successful Falcon and the Winter Soldier run and Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta) has two Emmy nominations and will be in Marvel’s upcoming Eternals movie.
On top of the star-studded cast, the material comes from a best-selling novel of the same name. They hired Golden Globe-nominated director Joe Wright as well. However, this production was in trouble from the start.
The movie was initially screened in 2019 and was delayed for reshoots after it was realized that the movie left audiences confused. The movie was also delayed because of the Disney-Fox merger as it becomes the last Fox movie to be released by Disney. Of course, the movie was further delayed due to the pandemic and the final result is what we received on Netflix.
The Woman in the Window will feel like a familiar story for Rear Window fans or anyone who is familiar with its many pop culture references, but it is technically not a remake. The story features Anna Fox (Adams), a woman with a fear of leaving her home, who spends her days watching her neighbors through her windows. She learns a good bit about their lives by watching them but one day, she witnesses what she believes is the murder of the woman (Moore) who just moved in across the street.
However, when the police come to speak to her about what she witnessed the man who moved in across the street, Alistair Russell (Oldman), and his wife are both confused and perfectly fine. The problem is, the woman who is claiming to be his wife, Jane Russell (Leigh) is not the woman that Anna saw stabbed through her window. She believes that they are trying to get over on her because of her mental state and continues to watch them and dig into Alistair’s history but her world continues to unravel before a series of big reveals by the end of the movie.
The Woman in the Window turns a simple premise into a convoluted story
Before reading about the reshoots, I went into writing this review thinking that it felt like this movie was filmed by three or four different directors. The tone, the pacing, and even the cinematography seem to shift at different points in the movie. Anna Fox is a fan of classic films so there are some edits that mirror classical film edits and cuts early in the movie. There are some scenes that are clearly meant to reflect how Anna’s mind is perceiving the world, but then at some point, all of that goes away.
The Woman in the Window goes from being an arthouse movie to being a generic thriller before finally morphing back into an arthouse movie near the climax. It was a very uneven experience and left me more frustrated than entertained. The premise is incredibly simple and it feels like the artistic choices made during the film are way too much for the story they’re trying to tell. When you have a cast this talented you want to try to do something special but they may have tried too hard in this one.
Would you recommend The Woman in the Window?
I cannot in good faith recommend this movie. I went in with high expectations and if that hasn’t become clear yet, I was underwhelmed. Again, the story is pretty simple but the artistic choices make it more complicated than it has to be. The last 20-30 minutes of the movie are great but the trip to getting there is muddled frustrating.
When you choose to tell a story through the lens of someone whose sanity is not intact, you have to commit to that. In the end, when you make your reveal, the viewer should be able to think back to something early in the movie and think: “oh, this is what was happening there!” and The Woman in the Window does not accomplish this.
This is a spoiler-free review so I can’t specify what exactly was done but there are multiple reveals that are fun if you don’t care about following a plot. However, if you do care about the plot, you’ll just feel like you were lied to by the end.
If you have to see for yourself, The Woman in the Window is streaming on Netflix.