Amy Adams, Anthony Mackie, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore

Amy Adams, Anthony Mackie

'The Woman in the Window': Amy Adams Gets Rear-Windowed

Adaptation of bestselling thriller about an agoraphobe who witnesses a murder gets the full A-list treatment — and still feels curiously DOA

5/15/2021 6:51:00 AM

Give 'The Woman in the Window' credit — this Hitchcock-a-doodle-doo adaptation of the bestselling prestige beach-read sure know how to 'Rear Window' a great cast to death. Our review of the Amy Adams thriller

Adaptation of bestselling thriller about an agoraphobe who witnesses a murder gets the full A-list treatment — and still feels curiously DOA

JunebugandArrival), Adams has an uncanny knack for bringing a woman-next-door quality to most of her roles. It’s not wholesomeness, per se — you would not call her glam-slam con artist inAmerican Hustle“wholesome” — but a sort of malleable everylady quality that she can temper to fit the mood without losing an audience. You love watching her even when her characters behave badly, or when she’s committed to furiously trying to color inside the lines of a movie that doesn’t do her talents justice. At the very least, you’re invested in this flawed, fucked-up protagonist’s fate from the moment Adams’ recluse reluctantly shuffles out of bed. Watching her play Fox reminds you of the popular industry maxim that directing is 90 percent casting. We’re giving you the good news first.

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Anna sees a therapist (screenwriter Tracy Letts, pulling double duty here) once a week, who’s trying to coax her into going outside. Occasionally, she interacts with her shaggy downstairs tenant (Wyatt Russell). Anna fills the rest of her waking hours guzzling her meds with gallons of vino, wobbling around in a sort of pharma-drunk fugue state, and watching old movies. Why yes, she

doesloveRear Window— funny you should ask, because her main hobby is voyeurism. Specifically, spying on her neighbors, which range from a church group to a trumpet player. There’s no Miss Lonelyhearts to be glimpsed through her front windows, but there are some new tenants, the Russells, who just moved in across the street. Alistair Russell (

) was a bigwig Boston lawyer, and a little chilly. His son, Ethan (Eighth Grade‘s Fred Hechinger), is socially awkward and seems unfamiliar with the concept of boundaries, but when he stops by Anna’s place to drop off a gift from his mom, the child psychologist in her takes pity on him. Especially since the teenager seems to be hinting that things may be a little volatile in the household.

And Mrs. Russell? We meet her when she shows up one night and helps Anna out of a jam. Her name is Jane. She is gregarious, forward, earthy, a little nosy, a little boozy — “I’d hate to be stuck inside a house this shitty,” she quips upon hearing that Anna is agoraphobic. Jane is a complicated woman and thus, a

Julianne Moorespecialty; see that aforementioned statement about the benefits of good casting. They bond over being moms, and being stuck in what seems like tough, unforgiving circumstances. This is the closest thing to a friend that Anna has had in a while, which is why she freaks out when she later hears what sounds like a woman screaming. It may have come from the Russells’ place. And then, a day later, she witnesses Jane arguing with someone in the apartment across the way — and being stabbed to death.

911 is called. An attempt to help is aborted. When the cops show up, Anna accuses Mr. Russell of killing his wife. That’s nonsense, he tells everyone. You’ve never met my wife. At which point Mrs. Russell steps into the picture, and — given she is not Julianne Moore, but Jennifer Jason Leigh — we have no idea who this highly unreliable narrator has or hasn’t encountered, what she has or hasn’t seen, what’s real or the product of an overactive, highly disturbed imagination.

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If you’re among the legion of readers who breathlessly turned the pages of Finn’s novel, you know what’s on deck. If you haven’t, you might wonder whether you’re about to venture in a gaslighting parable, aVertigo-style setup, another tale of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown or something far more sinister. To get into any plot details past this point is to play hopscotch in a minefield. What can be said is that

Anthony Mackieand Brian Tyree Henry also show up, and like Oldman and Leigh, they too feel underused here; the film’s tweaked view of motherhood is a rich vein that’s never quite tapped; and you will need to endure an Overlook Hotel-level maze of plot twists and the kind of major suspension of disbelief that can leave permanent palm marks on your face.

You may also want to preemptively take some Dramamine, given director Joe Wright’s penchant for throwing in skewed, Dutch-angled shots to break up the monotony every few minutes. The filmmaker has always had a gift for cracking open literary texts and getting intriguing films out of them, finding a one-size-fits-all method of turning words on a page into sound and vision; even his experimental take on

Anna Kareninamanages to get enough Tolstoy on the screen that you recognize the book underneath the meta-theatrical flourishes. He’s also not afraid to swing for the fences when it comes to stylizing his storytelling — this is the filmmaker who, withAtonement

‘s unbroken five-minute Steadicam shot of Dunkirk’s devastation, proved that there’s a gossamer-thin line between virtuosity and indulgence.WithWindow,he throws in a few grand gestures: a hallucinogenic splash of red across the frame here, a snowy car wreck transposed into a living room setting there, a couple of ingenious modern variations on the ol’ split-screen composition. Mostly, however, the playbook consists of “ape Hitchcock,” followed by blank pages. (Though kudos to cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel’s ability to inject menace into every dark corner and Danny Elfman’s Herrmann-for-all-seasons score.) When in doubt, throw in an old movie homage or, better yet, an actual clip of an old movie —

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