The Woman in the Window

This is one of those films where the public is so informed on its "troubled production" – reshoots, rehires, delays, etc. – that we automatically assume the results are a train wreck. By no means is The Woman in the Window a great movie, but it's mostly a well-made one. Its big problem was there at the start: the story is ludicrous.

Amy Adams plays Anna, a child psychologist whose agoraphobia has trapped her in her enormous (of course) New York apartment. One day a wealthy new family – the Russells – moves in across the street. Despite her agoraphobic nature, Anna has no problem letting these absolute strangers come into her house and have long, personal conversations with her, even though there's something immediately sketchy about them. (Teenage son Ethan, played by Fred Hechinger, is nervous and jumpy; his mother, played by a miscast Julianne Moore, seems completely off her rocker.) Anna concludes that Mr. Russell is an abusive man – and why shouldn't we believe her, when he's played by Gary Oldman at full shout?

The plot kicks in when Anna witnesses Mrs. Russell being bloodily murdered – hence the title of the film. But when she reports the crime to the police, the Russells come over to reveal that Mrs. Russell is someone else entirely: a completely underused Jennifer Jason Leigh. So who was Julianne Moore? Merely a figment of Anna's imagination? Everyone seems to think so.

You've seen this story a million times. Protagonist: "You must think I'm crazy, but I know what I saw!" Other characters: "You're just tired, get some rest." "I'm sure you think you saw something..." Etc. And then of course a third act twist reveals that the protagonist was right all along. Cue the final battle.

The Woman in the Window has a colorful, theatrical presentation, thanks to cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel and production designer Kevin Thompson. But if director Joe Wright is trying to be clever with his numerous allusions to Hitchcock classics, he's wrong: it's just heavy-handed. (I mean, in the film's very first minute, we're treated to a closeup of James Stewart in Rear Window.) Tracy Letts's adaptation of A.J. Finn's (a.k.a. Daniel Mallory's) novel changes a few details, but fails to solve the novel's inherent problems. Which is to say: the plot hinges on several absurd contrivances and blatant avoidances of logic. (Wouldn't the cops have asked Anna for a physical description of the murder victim? How could the killer know that no one else in the neighborhood would witness the crime? And with blood spattered all over the window, where was vigilant Anna while the killer was cleaning it up? Did he know she wouldn't be looking when he brought out the Windex? Etc.)

Adams does her best, but this film's a real misfire. It's not even fun enough to hate-watch.