Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Film Review: The Woman in the Window

 The Woman in the Window.jpg

Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable
Violence Mature
Vulgarity Mature
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Mature

Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to put clips of better movies inside of the movie you're filming.  But early on in The Woman in the Window, director Joe Wright shows us a clip from Rear Window.  The effect is that you almost wish you were watching that movie instead of this one.

The Woman in the Window is about Dr. Anna Fox (Amy Adams) an agoraphobic living in a large, multistory home in Manhattan.  She has a musician/handyman tenant named David (Wyatt Russell) living in her basement.  A new family movies in across the street.  The teenage son Ethan (Fred Hechinger) comes to drop off a housewarming gift and Anna gets the feeling that not all is right in their family.  Things then take a turn when one night she sees a woman (Julianne Moore) being in the new home.  But Ethan's father (Gary Oldman) claims that all is well.  The police have trouble believing Anna, especially because the mixing of her meds and alcohol could be causing her to hallucinate.  So is Anna hallucinating or is some foul play happening across the street?  That is the central mystery of the movie.

Wright desperately wants this movie to be a modern-day Hitchcock.  He constantly uses super fancy and stylistic shots that feel very much like he is showing off.  But he forgets to do some of the basic work.  For example, even though we spend almost the entire film inside of Anna's house, we really don't get a clear sense of the interior geography until much later in the movie.  In fact, there is a shot later in the movie that tracks down the steps to each floor and I said to my wife: "You needed that at the beginning of the movie."  There is nothing wrong with being fancy, but you also have to the workman parts to help orient your audience to the basic environment.

Adams does a great job, as always.  She threads the needle between sympathy and repulsion, vulnerability and stoicism, sanity and insanity.  The wild look in her eyes could be read a someone losing their grip on reality or someone overflowing with frustration that no one believes the truth of her claim.  The movie does go out of its way to make her look as unattractive as possible, though I am not sure why.  Moore is a scene stealer who is able to turn on her charisma like it's nothing.  But the movie criminally wastes Oldman and Jennifer Jason Leigh (in a role I will not spoil).  Both of these actors are immense talents.  But the structure of the narrative causes you mostly to see them from across the street through the windows.  Hechinger is decent, but his performance is a bit showy.  Russell does a good job of finding just the right balance of innocence and menace.  In a movie like this, each character has to be ambiguous in terms of their guilt or innocence.

The movie tries to tackle not only the issue of paranoia but also of loss and guilt.  Screenwriter Tracy Letts tries to weave these themes into the main mystery, but it feels more like a distraction.  All the while, I kept expecting a movie that would have me on the edge of my seat.  Instead, I kept leapfrogging the narrative and figuring out the twists.  I couldn't help it as we are treated to extended scenes where Anna goes into a panic attack searching for her cell phone.  I'm sure that this was supposed to show us her anxieties, but scenes like these made me feel like the movie was spinning its wheels.

There is one moment where a character, overcome with guilt, talks about how desperately they want to be forgiven.  It made me think of how blessed Catholic are to have sacrament of Reconciliation, where we can take all of our sins to God through the priest and hear the words of absolution so that we know that have forgiveness and the peace that comes from that.

Overall, the movie is not actively a bad movie.  It just feels needlessly mediocre, especially given the creative talent at work.

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