This is, perhaps, an outcome I should see as inevitable. These thrillers, which became popular when David Fincher teamed with Gillian Flynn to adapt her novel Gone Girl into a hit film, have been playing a figurative game of “telephone.” What began as “mysterious thriller” has been spat out the other side as “purple thriller monkey mystery dishwasher;” a barely recognizable homage to what was once interesting. Director Joe Wright and writer Tracy Letts make a valiant go of this, but in the end I urge you to expect only bitter disappointment.
Agoraphobic psychologist Ana Fox (Amy Adams) is an alcoholic drug addict that watches her neighbors through her barely opened shades. We track her movements around the stately New York brownstone she calls home, though at times it feels as much a prison cell as a beautiful house. Her cellmate/tenent David Winter (Wyatt Russell) and therapist Dr. Landy (Tracy Letts) She gets through the day by calling her estranged family, Ed Fox (Anthony Mackie) and their daughter Olivia (Mariah Bozeman). When a new family moves in across the street, Ana befriends Jane Russell (Julianne Moore) and becomes caught up in a blurry mystery when she believes she sees the woman murdered by her husband, Alistair Russell (Gary Oldman).
These are the types of reviews that I hate to even type up. When the trailer for this dropped over a year ago I got excited. Sure, it’s a tired genre, and I’m not nuts about Joe Wright as a director, but the imagery and cast list seemed like a solid bet. Amy Adams truly became someone I kept an eye on with Arrival and Nocturnal Animals, but with this and Hillbilly Elegy the cracks are beginning to show in her otherwise tight filmography. Her attempts to portray Ana Fox’s boiling anxiety feels tepid to the touch, and asleep at the wheel beside her are Oldman and Russell. The only real shining light is Julianne Moore, who exudes flirty and funny energy that shows shades of a more interesting film. Indeed, her one scene is the highlight of this entire exercise (and it definitely feels like exercise).
It’s a shame that such a dull film looks so gorgeous. Wright may not have delivered all that gripping of a narrative, but he’s painted a picture that looks great with the mute setting on. Rooms are shaded in burgundy noir shadows, angles actually convey the state of character mindsets, and some of it looks downright Kauffman-esque in how truly weird he gets on occasion. When a film makes me bored enough to look at my phone and the visuals make me feel bad for looking away that’s at least something. The downside is that it’s not enough to save the whole thing, leaving only pretty things to hang on a wall instead of a story to pass down. In a world where even Shia Lebouf can star in a passable take on Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Wright has no excuse for doing something so boring.
I’m always tentative to bet on these types of thrillers because the genre has become so overly saturated with knockoffs and copies of copies, but casts like this one give me a false hope that I should have learned to stifle by now. This is going to be a lot of people’s cup of tea, an afternoon watch that will be quickly digested and then forgotten, but in the long run it just won’t have any staying power. Joe Wright’s pretty, dull film will be quickly left in the discard pile.
The Woman in the Window is streaming on Netflix.