In the tradition of “Gone Girl” and “The Girl on the Train” and streaming on Netflix is “The Woman in the Window”- a tired “Rear Window” rip-off that leads you down an overgrown garden path until you’re bleeding from scratching against its thorns.
Amy Adams stars as Anna, an agoraphobic woman who chases down pills with wine to placate her anxiety. Why can’t she go outside? Some trauma yet to be revealed, but we know Anna’s separated from her husband Ed (Anthony Mackie) whom she speaks to daily. Being homebound is convenient for Anna to see her new neighbors Alistair (Gary Oldman) and son, Ethan Russell (Fred Hechinger) move into the Manhattan brownstone across the street. Ethan visits Anna with a gift and Anna, a child psychologist, senses something not right with Ethan. Is it anxiety? Or fear?
After Anna passes out opening her front door to confront egg-throwing Halloween hooligans, she’s rescued by Ethan’s mother, Jane (Julianne Moore). Anna and Jane soon bond, kibitzing over Cabernet. When Jane leaves, Anna trades vino in for voyeurism by watching the Russells through her window. After a noisy disturbance at the Russell’s residence leads to Anna seeing Jane stumble around with a knife in her stomach, Anna calls 911 and the police appear.
Detectives Little (Brian Tyree Henry) and Norelli (Jeanine Serralles) have trouble believing Anna, especially when the Russells show up and Anna is confronted by the real Jane Russell (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who claims they’ve never met. Is Anna delusional? Is she being used in some sort of crazy crime conspiracy?
As Anna’s untrustworthy traits surface and enough red herrings and mistaken identities are thrown at you, the more apt question becomes “Do you care?” After finding out Anna’s downstairs tenant/handyman (Wyatt Russell) is a parolee for a violent offence and mysterious e-mails appear causing Anna to fear for her life, I found the real mystery to be how to stay interested.
With a wasted big-name cast parading around like tokens on a Clue board game, “The Woman in the Window” achieves the impossible by becoming less involving the more secrets are revealed. By the time it degenerates into a slasher-soaked finale, all of the movie’s intrigue has evaporated.
From the popular book by A.J Finn, an adapted screenplay from talented writer Tracy Letts (“August: Osage County,” “Killer Joe”) and director Joe Wright (“Darkest Hour”), “The Woman in the Window” is a lifeless letdown. Have the wheels finally fallen off this genre? Have we grown tired of a troubled woman in the center of a twisty-turny murder mystery? Maybe, but it evokes a scarier question: Is Netflix the new “straight-to-video?”