One of the biggest film trends of the 2010s was the sale of bestselling novels in films such as Ex girlfriend and TV series like Sharp objects and Big little liesand ushered in a new era of psychological thrillers. A late addition to the pack: The woman in the window, Adaptation of AJ Finn’s 2018 novel. The film by Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice) with a script by Tracy Letts (error, Killer joe), was shot mainly in 2018, but was delayed by new recordings in 2019, and the planned theatrical release for 2020 has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now released on Netflix, the film is a stylish, melodramatic addition to the thriller adaptation trend, but falls victim to Letts’ allegiance to the original book.
Anna Fox (Amy Adams) is an agoraphobe who hasn’t left her home in 11 months. Formerly a child psychiatrist, she spends her days watching her neighbors live their lives while mixing alcohol with prescription meditation and talking on the phone to her estranged husband and daughter. The action in the film begins when her new neighbors try to visit her – teenage Ethan Russell (Fred Hechinger) and later his mother, Jane Russell (Julianne Moore). Shortly after arriving, Anna sees Jane being stabbed into her house and calls the police before she passes out. When she wakes up, the cops are in their house with another woman named Jane Russell, and Ethan says Anna never met his mother.
The mystery of what happened to the woman Anna met and what is going on in the house across the street is muddled by Anna’s unreliable narrator syndrome. It is a common feature in similar thriller-novel adaptations, such as Ex girlfriend and The girl on the train. Anna’s unreliable nature stems from a mix of her drugs – supposed to have side effects like hallucinations – and her own paranoia as she spied on the Russell house with a DSLR camera that was reminiscent of footage rear window. The film goes all-in on the psychological thriller inspirations, with scenes from the classic noir films, which Anna fuses in memories of a past trauma. This event also becomes a mystery to the film.
The movie’s plot is a bit close to the enigma, though that’s to be expected given the book it adapts. Finn wrote The woman in the window in the first person, which leaves more room to explain the nuances of the plot. Rather than adding a narrative, the trick many book-to-film adaptations use, all of the portrayal and world formation in the film takes place through conversations, Anna’s phone calls with her husband Ed (Anthony Mackie), or her therapy sessions. The slow dissolving of details mixed with the hallucinatory elements makes it a little difficult to follow the fine details of the plot, but the main secret goes smoothly. The re-recordings of the film were caused by confused audience reactions to initial test screenings
The unreliable narrator drop can spark skepticism in the audience, but Wright does a great job of keeping Anna’s perspective the focus of observation for the audience as well. It reaches part of it through the atmosphere and makes the sculpted brownstone that the entire movie takes place in, both claustrophobic and cavernous through the lighting and staging. The sudden appearance of characters in the house in certain scenes adds to the effect, as does a breathtaking scene in which the outside world is brought into the brownstone in a set piece reminiscent of Wright’s 2012 adaptation of Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina.
The looks of other brown stones also depend on Anna’s POV as we see her through her camera lens; The scenes that look into other houses are distant and at the same time in Anna’s view. There’s no irony where the audience knows something before Anna does, which helps turn the film into a compelling psychological thriller.
As expected by the big names on the roster, all of the cast perform well. Adams’ edge as the caustic, paranoid Anna implies a vulnerability that fills her character, and her performance holds the film together. Every actor, including Julianne Moore and Jennifer Jason Leigh as the two Jane Russells, fulfills their roles admirably, even if they have few scenes. Hechinger is impressive as Ethan, he creates a balance between sensitive and protected and asserts himself in scenes with Adams. Gary Oldman also plays an obvious villain as Patriarch Alistair Russell.
The errors of The woman in the window are inevitable, in part because of the fidelity to customization and the intricacy of their source material. Anna is bellicose right out of the gate without much character training to explain why. It reads like an exaggerated example of an unlikely female protagonist. Anna’s tenant David, played by Falcon and the winter soldierWyatt Russell feels like a farmer who is more of an obvious suspect than a full character. All plot elements, red pegs, dramatic encounters and emotional breakdowns that made the novel a bestseller can be transferred to the screen as melodramatic. A desperate woman who calls out an open window: “Where is your mother? “to a teenager: melodrama.
While The woman in the window He succeeds in being a faithful adaptation of the book and in showing readers how the story plays out beat by beat on the screen. As a movie, it’s so dramatic that it’s a little bit silly. Not every book that generates enough to hum is suitable for the big screen, and filmmakers can’t always bully themselves with a flawed plot by adding style and A-list actors. The woman in the window tries admirably, but fails to turn a read book club into a masterpiece.
The woman in the window is now streamed on Netflix.