“I just don’t know what you’re going for.”
Delirious, derelict, and practically deranged during the unhinged and mismanaged opening chapter, The Woman in the Window is somehow one of the few movies I’ve seen in recent memory that begins as poorly as this one does yet ends on a strong note. If you break the film down by the usual three act structure it starts out as boring, then telegraphed, and then jumpstarted with a tangible rejuvenation. It starts off-key and works its way to find the proper pitch by the picture’s end. The Woman in the Window isn’t great overall, but it’s nowhere near as horrific as its lame duck and paranoia driven opening – or it’s critical consensus – quite suggests.
You wouldn’t assume Anna Fox (Amy Adams) was a child psychologist if you were to see her looking down from one of her Brownstone apartment windows she regularly gazes out of. She often looks tired, still wearing last night’s evening gown, emotionally exhausted. It’s immediately apparent that something is off in her mind, that her many medications and daily alcohol abuse create more anxiety and hallucinations for the agoraphobic woman terrified to leave her home. And the horror she witnesses across the street – or is at least thoroughly convinced she saw – makes her self-induced entrapment all the more overwhelming and exasperating. She can watch but she can’t act. Initially, Anna is part of the audience of her own existence. And it’s not very fun to watch until she becomes an active role in her decision making.
There are plenty of side characters in this sequestered yet slightly expansive chamber piece, and that’s partially a detriment to the film’s intimate tone. We never care about Detective Little (Brian Tyree Henry), give two shits about Alistair Russell (Gary Oldman, overacting here as he’s prone to do in small roles) or his voiceless wife Jane (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and the caustic basement dwelling handyman David (Wyatt Russell) is a bit of an on the nose reference to deep-seated demons. The only other character worth their salt is Ethan (Fred Hechinger, trying too hard to sell his character at times), the troubled son of Alistair who seems to feign vulnerability around vulnerable people. He’s off and so if Anna. Maybe their company will help them course-correct. Maybe not.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Amy Adams deliver a bad performance, and her exceptional job here in a movie that’s mediocre at best cements that thinking even further. You can also tell that Tracy Letts’ adaptation of A.J. Finn’s novel was penned by someone who normally writes for the stage, and that Joe Wright is a lauded director for a reason. Wright is able to take what seems to have been a rather imprudent script and implement a bit of patience behind the camera. But if there’s a MVP to be named on this Bad News Bears roster, it’s absolutely the film’s cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel. The Woman in the Window pops off the screen with images that look like expert paintings. And while it doesn’t hold a candle to Rear Window, Delbonnel at least gives the story a beautiful wick to carefully light up the rest of the picture. It’s just too bad the film waits so long to strike a match.
“I know what I saw.”
Rating: 2.5 out of 5