Hitchcock Lite

A great cast and good director get stymied by a clichéd plot

Film by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The Woman in the Window
Netflix
Opens May 14

2.5 out of 5 

Hollywood mining the paperback stand is hardly news. The Woman in the Window comes from the same rack as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train,but the result is noticeably inferior. How many times can an unreliable narrator be the key to solving a murder?

Based on an overcooked 2018 A.J. Finn novel, the story revolves around Anna (Amy Adams), an agoraphobic therapist with a taste for old movies and mixing pills with alcohol. Anna befriends a bullied teenager who moves in across the street, and his mother (Julianne Moore). Much like Rear Window (and dozens of movies since then), Anna then sees her new acquaintance get stabbed in her home and raises the alarm.

As witnesses go, Anna is a terrible one, with the added difficulty that there’s no body or proof that the victim actually existed. Is Anna’s addled mind playing tricks on her, or is there something fishy about her new neighbours?

The movie is not shy about its debt to Rear Window. We even get a shot of James Stewart in a wheelchair practicing some amateur sleuthing. Thankfully, The Woman in the Window benefits from a ridiculously overqualified cast (Adams, Moore, Gary Oldman, Anthony Mackie); and a filmmaker (Joe Wright) who has done more weighty work — most recently, Darkest Hour.

And the film does look incredible. Although there is one shot of a car on fire inside a townhouse that will have you wondering “is this necessary?”

A word about Amy Adams. By all accounts one of America’s finest actors (and six time Academy Award loser), Adams has started to take riskier roles. Her turn as a heroin-addicted yokel in Hillbilly Elegy was hard to watch, and not for the right reasons. In The Woman in the Window, Adams throws vanity to the wind and keeps a potentially absurd plot grounded. She’s a treasure and deserves better than this.

For a movie that requires minimal investment from the viewer, The Woman in the Window delivers all the soft thrills someone lying on the couch on a Friday night can take.