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Play It Again, Tim – ‘The Woman in the Window’: bad Hitchcock

Tim Miller
Written by Tim Miller

“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 (archived shows at 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.

About the author

Tim Miller

Tim Miller, a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics, was the Cape Cod Times film critic for nearly 36 years. A Detroit native (and hardcore Tigers fan), he’s been obsessed with movies since skipping school in 1962 to see “Lawrence of Arabia” with his parents when he was 7. Miller earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and his master’s from Suffolk University, where he taught film and journalism for 10 years. He continues to teach film at Curry College and Cape Cod Community College. He is a juror each year for the short-film competition of the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, has moderated several panel discussions at the Woods Hole Film Festival and frequently is heard as a guest on Cape & Islands NPR station WCAI. His work appeared as a chapter in the book “John Sayles: Interviews.” His favorite movie is Cameron Crowe's “Almost Famous” – because it makes him feel good to be alive.

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