There’s a gripping psychological drama to be made about the life of author Daniel Mallory – the guy who made up lies about getting a degree from Oxford, living with a brain tumour and having various dead family members, all to get better press for a novel he partially copied from an old Sigourney Weaver movie called (wait for it) Copycat. Unfortunately, this isn’t that film. Instead, director Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna) assembles an all-star cast for an adaptation of the book Mallory lied about – an overwritten, overplayed thriller that’s mainly worth watching to see inside a really nice-looking New York apartment.
Amy Adams (Arrival, Justice League) is Dr Anna Fox, a child psychologist trapped inside a lovely big townhouse by her agoraphobia – getting overwhelmed with anxiety whenever she gets near the threshold. Her ex-husband (new Captain America Anthony Mackie) occasionally calls, as does her hipster tenant (fake, part-time Captain America Wyatt Russell), but most of her socialising is done by staring out the window.
When the Russell family moves in across the street, Fox gets a few house calls – first from a nervy teen (rising star Fred Hechinger) who takes an interest in her collection of old movies, then from his mum (Julianne Moore) who seems slightly too desperate for a wine night, and finally from her strangely aggressive husband (Gary Oldman, back looking like himself again after his Oscar-winning turn in Wright’s last film, Darkest Hour) who wants to know why all his family keep visiting. When Fox uses the zoom lens of her camera to spy into the Russell house from her bedroom window she spots a murder – something that everyone spends the rest of the film trying to convince her is just a hallucination brought on by her medication.
The plot might sound familiar if you’ve ever seen Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 classic, Rear Window –but don’t worry if you miss the reference, the film makes sure you notice it by zooming in on a TV screen playing the movie in the first five minutes. Red herrings and red flags are peppered throughout The Woman In The Window, and Wright handles all of them with the least amount of subtlety – ruining all the fun of guessing what might happen by treating the audience like idiots.
Less of a script than a Wikipedia synopsis, writer Tracy Letts adapts Mallory’s novel into a string of exposition that smacks of focus-group rewrites trying too hard to unmuddle the plot before it’s ready to be unmuddled. By the time the last act arrives it’s hard to care too much about who’s lying to who, but the final twist is almost bonkers enough to make it all worthwhile – ending with a wildly unearned comic-book payoff that almost tips the whole thing over into comedy.
It’s easy to see why everyone involved was drawn to The Woman In The Window. Wright is a decent director who clearly just wanted to get his Hitchcock on, and Adams sinks her teeth into a great role as a gaslit neurotic amid a fantastic cast trying hard to undersell the script, so it’s a real shame to see this beautifully shot, well-acted thriller turned into a film that already feels like a forgotten Friday night in.
- Director: Joe Wright
- Starring: Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Wyatt Russell
- Release date: May 14 (Netflix)