Saturday, May 15, 2021

The Woman in the Window


Suffering from acute agoraphobia, child psychologist Dr. Anna Fox (Amy Adams) has not left her Manhattan apartment in the last ten months. Circumstances change when the Russell family moves in across the street and they start befriending her. First comes Ethan (Fred Hechinger), the son, whom she immediately determines to be suffering from domestic abuse. Then comes his mother (Julianne Moore) with whom she easily gets along. Spying on her neighbors through her window, Anna witnesses the murder of her new friend and calls the police. The father, Alistair Russell (Gary Oldman), is livid and denies all accusations, arguing that his wife Jane Russell (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is very much alive and has come to accompany him at the meeting with the police. Ethan also refutes Anna’s claim that she has met his mother. Taking her medications and dependence on alcohol into consideration, she is summarily dismissed as a nutjob, but is she really? Or is the Russell family hiding a secret?

The Woman in the Window is off to a promising start, intriguing and mysterious, establishing that perhaps the protagonist is an unreliable narrator that cannot be trusted. The second act indulges your inner detective, encouraging you to solve the puzzle that is Anna Fox’s broken psyche while putting two and two together. The third act is a chaotic mess full of contrived plot twists lumped together as if the screenwriter had a plot twist quota to fulfill. Is the movie worth it then? I’d say yes. It is still a decent psychological thriller with several jump scares in store. The plot, however, is a totally different story.

On the pages of a novel, this technique might prove to be gripping enough to warrant your attention through the power of the written word. Since I have not really read the book to judge if it’s just as problematic, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt that perhaps the messy transition from page to film was just because of the screenplay. In any case, the plot is rather disappointing because it builds up a good storyline with just the right air of mystery, only to devolve into a B-movie slasher flick towards its ending.

If anything, it’s the ensemble’s acting that makes this film tolerable. We can’t know for sure if Amy Adams will end up as Glenn Close Jr. as far as her Oscars trajectory has been so far, but we can agree that she does bring her A-Game all the time regardless of what role you put her in. The same thing can be said about Moore, Oldman, Hechinger and Wyatt Russell as David despite the severely limited exposure they are given. Perhaps the best way to enjoy this movie is via the cast’s acting. That ending is just all over the place!

But who are we to complain? Maybe the producers did not really predict a pandemic that will have all of us stranded at home when they were filming this. Since most of the scenes unfold within the walls of the main character’s house, it does give you a lot of opportunity to empathize with her. She is agoraphobic after all, and isn’t that something we now all share to some extent because of COVID? Along with the acting, maybe the timing of this film’s release as well as the choice to release it on a streaming platform instead of a movie house would qualify as its strongest suit.

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