2021 | R | starring Amy Adams, Wyatt Russell, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Fred Hechinger, Brian Tyler Henry | directed by Joe Wright |
In the same way that Seinfeld was deliberately misunderstood to create easy clones about “single people living in New York”, it appears Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl has been equally reduced to it’s most surface-level molecules by cynical Hollywood publicists to inspire exactly the kind of women-in-peril Lifetime thrillers that Flynn’s book and movie was turning on their head. First, the Emily Blunt vehicle The Girl on the Train and now The Women in the Window putting Amy Adams center stage as the imperiled agoraphobic, trapped in her spacious upper west side New York apartment who witnesses a murder across the street.
I cannot speak to A.J. Finn’s bestselling book, which I’m told is quite good, but the movie is Rear Window to a point beyond homage. If the teen-spun Distrubia was taken to court over “stealing” the plot of the 1954 Hitchcock classic, what in the world is this? Window follows this film’s tropes to a T, in this case what’s keeping Adams inside is not a broken leg or an ankle bracelet or a pool-induced accident, but a case of agoraphobia. She meets her next door neighbor Jane (Julianne Moore) and strikes up a friendship with her autistic son (Fred Hechinger) until one night when she sees Jane’s husband (Gary Oldman) seemingly murder her through her camera telephoto lens across the street and “Jane” shows up as a new woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
As in all of these movies there is an initial scene where she tries to escape her confines and stop it, but can’t. As in all of these movies, the cops don’t believe her and evidence mounts until she questions herself. As in all of these movies there is an insane final reveal of a murder, but who is the murderer? That, with the film’s small cast of too-obvious suspects (Wyatt Russell as her creepy basement tenant spends the entire film with a spotlight on him), you’ll probably guess very early on.
Window is such a slog that good actors are bad in it. Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Wyatt Russell all approach high camp here. The screenplay adaption is credited to play write Tracy Letts (who appears as Adams’ therapist – who I assume is making house calls) and it’s either a paycheck for him or something totally ripped apart by producers. The film is directed by Joe Wright of great movies like Atonement, Hanna and the Gary Oldman/Churchill bio-pic Darkest Hour. Wright also seems to be cashing a paycheck here, but he also does some clever low-budget camera work here, infusing the film with a visual style that keeps Woman in the Window from being a complete write-off.
It’s surprising to see a bestselling book that by all accounts should have been a major studio release be put in the hands of a bunch of people who couldn’t care less about it, reducing it to the most shallow and obvious story beats. If you’ve seen Rear Window, Disturbia or The Simpsons episode Bart of Darkness you’ve seen a better version of this story.