There’s a fine line between inspiration and unoriginality and audiences will surely debate which side of said line Joe Wright’s The Woman in the Window finds itself on. Adapted from pseudonymous author A. J. Finn’s New York Times bestselling novel, Wright’s new film is a thriller starring Amy Adams as Dr. Anna Fox, a woman who suffers from agoraphobia which prevents her from leaving her New York home. After a new family move in to the house across the street from her she witnesses a terrifying crime that exposes a criminal mystery which she subsequently becomes obsessed with solving.
The film’s influences are clear as day, with the premise alone proving immediately reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Rear Window. If it wasn’t apparent from the story the style and technique of the film-making ensures that the inspiration is obvious too. The Woman in the Window chooses to unashamedly embrace these similarities, as well as the other countless genre tropes it indulges in and in doing so has a lot of fun in telling its story. It’s as camp as Christmas and for fans of 90s thrillers, it will provide a delightful throwback to this era of cinema.
Wright has assembled an impressive roster of A-listers for the film including Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Anthony Mackie, Wyatt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Tyree Henry and of course Adams who leads the whole ensemble. This cast has varying degrees of involvement and the quality of performances span quite a range. Oldman doesn’t have much screen time and it would seem in an attempt to make the most of it, chooses to drastically overact, whereas Leigh has even less time centre-stage and due to this, is almost instantly forgettable. Thankfully Adams confidently grounds all of the theatrics and drama with an assured central performance, which helps to drive forward the narrative and to at least give the film some sense of stability. The strength of her performance means that the range of quality that her co-stars deliver doesn’t matter all that much and if there’s any genre that calls for a bit of overacting surely it’s the campy thriller, right?
Adapted by Tracy Letts, who also has a small role in the film as Anna’s psychiatrist, the screenplay introduces each of its supporting characters well. It does this gradually and with a good level of attention given to each of them. Does this set up reinvent the wheel? No, absolutely not, but it puts in place all of its necessary players and then begins to unravel its narrative well. It does this with good pace, and with adequate helpings of suspense and tension. However, in its third act problems do begin to arise. Certain elements to the story aren’t as clever as they think they are and as a result, for a short period of time, the main plot is somewhat derailed. There’s a shift in tone and momentum that the film definitely could have done without, although the film does redeem itself with an energetic and entertaining finale, that’s worth the slightly stunted journey it takes to arrive at this final destination.
Wright’s cinematic vision will be labelled as unoriginal, but his refusal to shy away from the genre that it borrows from actually serves it well and should satisfy fans who love a cheap thrill. It certainly won’t be for everyone, but with its carefully restrained running time it might manage to win over some more cynical viewers by the time the credits have rolled. Thanks to the strong leading performance from Adams and the more sporadic in quality of her co-stars, the fun combination of campy thriller tropes and budget horror movie moments, as well as its narrative full of twists and turns – The Woman in the Window is a sumptuous slice of silly cinema which truly overindulges in itself, having its cake, and eating it too!
The Woman in the Window is available now on Netflix