The psychological thriller has tension and drama but falls short of necessary suspense.
The new movie by Pride and Prejudice and The Darkest Hour director Joe Wright stars Amy Adamas as Anna, a child psychologist with agoraphobia that has been cooped up in her New York brownstone for god knows how long. She lives her days drinking wine and taking her prescription medications; her therapist (actor and screenwriter of this film Tracy Letts) constantly visits her. Suddenly, a new family moves across from her house, and she can’t help but spy on them. So there is a mystery, why is Anna in this sad, hazy state, and who are these people? Anna shortly meets the teenage boy and his mom, played by Julianne Moore. There’s a weirdness surrounding the father (Gary Oldman), and it seems that this might be an interesting tale.
The movie is based on a novel by the same name, and it’s heavily inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. The visuals and imagery add to the sense of confusion, and the constant moving camera shots represent the dizziness that this character is living in. Voiceovers of her talking to her absent husband and father (Anthony Mackie) of their daughter let the audience know there’s a lot we still don’t know about her. For a psychological thriller, it sort of ticks all the boxes. As entertainment though, it’s pretty flat. This is one of those cases where not even the star power cast was enough to keep the story engaging. Don’t get me wrong, they do really fine, stellar performances, but the clichés surrounding them do nothing to aid the big reveals.
At one point, Anna meets the wife, Jane Russell. They have a girl’s night and seem to get along pretty well. After this, Anna sees from her window how Jane is killed by her husband, notifies the police immediately, only to be branded a liar when a different woman that claims to be Jane walks through the door. This is where Anna’s spiraling out of control begins. I have to say I was as confused as Anna with the whole thing, and for a while, it is pretty unclear if Anna is right, or she just sees things that aren’t actually there. The doubt this might create in the viewer is not bad and can even be intriguing. Adams literally becomes “the woman in the window,” taking pictures of their neighbors and spending all her time consumed by this mystery. Along the way, we also meet Anna’s tenant David (Wyatt Russell, making this an MCU reunion with Mackie). He lives in her basement, and his apparent disregard for the new neighbors also sparked some theories in me. Sadly, these theories were not enough to keep me on the edge of my seat.
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There are still some good moments. First of all, there’s a claustrophobic energy throughout the movie that perfectly accompanies the main character. Second of all, whenever the entire cast gets together for a scene, the battle of words creates a tension that’s very reminiscent of a theatre experience. The fast dialogue feels like a play, and the angrier Oldman’s character gets from Anna’s spying and intrusion, the more Anna gets closer to her breakdown. It is in one of these scenes where we finally see Anna’s past, pain, and grief. Anna’s traumatic experience is portrayed in a very theatrical way, but as emotional as this moment is, it doesn’t come as a shock; the suspense is just not high enough for us to care or be surprised.
In the end, the movie transforms itself from a dramatic psychological thriller to a serial killer story. I do have to say, there was no instance of this murderer being the bad guy, so I did open my eyes in disbelief. Having said that, it also feels that this action-packed, running-for-your-life sequence belonged in a different movie. The Woman in the Window felt like an underwhelming version of Girl on the Train or Gone Girl. It is not a terribly slow movie, but it’s not fast-paced either. It’s simply a lukewarm story that might make you wonder but will not make you gasp in astonishment.
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