“The Woman in the Window” (R, 100 minutes, on Netflix) celebrates Alfred Hitchcock. But not in the way intended.
Shamelessly ripping off such Hitch flicks as “Rear Window,” “Vertigo” and “Psycho,” “The Woman in the Window,” based on a best-seller by A.J. Finn, is a disaster. What’s shocking about this is the talent involved: director Joe Wright (the Keira Knightley 2005 version of “Pride & Prejudice”), screenwriter Tracy Letts (“August: Osage County”) and a cast featuring Amy Adams, Gary Oldham, Julianne Moore, Anthony Mackie, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Brian Tyree Henry.
It’s so bad, so inept, that, other than being unintentionally funny (well, who knows, maybe it’s intentional), it makes you appreciate even more the mastery of Hitchcock. He made suspense thrillers that were great, not stinkers.
Adams plays agoraphobic child-psychiatrist Anna Fox, who stays locked up in her Manhattan brownstone, watching old movies and mixing alcohol with meds. Anna’s a mess, physically and psychologically.
Then, she meets, one by one, the Russells, new neighbors who have moved in across the street. First, the teenage son, Ethan (Fred Hechinger), comes knocking and quickly becomes buddy-buddy with the supposedly reclusive Anna. Then, his flaky mom (Moore), Jane. (Get it? Jane Russell? Famous actress from the ’40s and ’50s?) Then, his apparently abusive dad, Alistair (Oldham). It’s like Anna is holding an open house.
Anna gets caught up in the family dynamics. Then she thinks she witnesses a murder. She calls in the cops (Henry, Jeanine Serralles). There are issues with her story. No one believes her. They doubt her state of mind. She starts to wonder about it, too. We do, too, sort of, though the absurdity of the whole thing makes it next to impossible to really care.
Nothing in this convoluted, far-fetched story, including the performances, is remotely convincing, and the obvious nods to Hitchcock movies — shots looking down a staircase (“Vertigo”); a knife violently plunging again and again into a victim (“Psycho”) — further remove us from the proceedings. Even “The Woman in the Window” has been used as a title before for an Edward G. Robinson-Joan Bennett-Dan Duryea film noir from 1944. No doubt this is intentional, too, and if you want to play Name That Movie Reference, you’ll stay busy. Me? I’d pass.
Most surprising might be director Wright’s involvement in this. Wright has made several movies of great intelligence and beauty: In addition to “Pride & Prejudice,” his work includes “Anna Karenina” (2012) and “Atonement” (2017), an Oscar nominee for best picture. More recently he made “Darkest Hour” (2017), also nominated for best picture, with Oldman as Winston Churchill.
Here’s a tip for the talented filmmaker:
Don’t try to be Alfred, Joe.
Just be Joe, Joe.
Bomb (Zero out of four stars)
** Click here for Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **
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Tim Miller is a Cape-based member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He and Tony Raine host “Tim ’n’ Tony’s Rock ’n’ Pop Show” from midnight to 3 a.m. Sunday nights/Monday mornings on WOMR (92.1-FM), WFMR (91.3-FM) and womr.org (archived shows at https://womr.org/schedule/broadcast-archive/). He also teaches film at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.
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