THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is the most confusing movie I’ve seen in a long time… and I just watched Things Heard and Seen, and… I’ve read the book. THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is what we should direct sober people to, if they ever want to know what it feels to smoke a Baby Jeter and then go to an event, only to realize upon arrival that you also took a Wyld gummy edible, and guess what, it’s hitting RIGHT NOW. The film is a bonkers thrill ride based on a book with an even more wild backstory. Let’s get started.
The film follows Anna Fox (Amy Adams), an agoraphobic, alcoholic shrink who lives alone in a staggeringly large New York brownstone and may or may not work remotely. She has a husband named Ed (Anthony Mackie) and a daughter named Olivia (Mariah Bozeman) who she speaks to frequently in seemingly out-of-place voiceovers that don’t make it clear if they are communicating via unseen video, phone, or merely in her head. They are estranged, as Anna clearly lives alone, but it’s not really explained why or how that setup works.
Anna spends her days drinking wine, watching old movies (which are splayed across the screen at random increments in a way that was likely meant to come across as artsy, but feels a lot more frenetic in execution), and spying on her neighbors. As someone who has had creepy neighbors spy on them, her character is not quite as relatable as perhaps she was intended to be. Anna, don’t you know Netflix exists? Watch The Circle and live variously through strangers without bothering anyone.
Her voyeuristic eye lands on her new neighbors, The Russells, and in particular, their son Ethan. He comes by to drop off a candle from his mom, raising it in the air after Anna says she is not prepared for company, noting, “I don’t know what to do with this,” as if he has never seen a package delivered and could not possibly fathom just leaving it on her doorstep. So she invites him in, and this is where things get really weird.
Also, Ethan is strange. Like, really strange. Despite intense allergies, he pets Anna’s cat, and tells her how he loves “cat tongues,” completely unprovoked. He asks what kids could have to talk to a therapist about and makes weird comments about his family. Why is he opening up to this woman and airing all of his family’s dirty laundry, when they’ve literally just met? Also, HOW OLD IS ETHAN? It is truly unnerving to see him sitting on the floor looking at movies, with Anna behind him in her mumu, like if Stifler’s mom had been a member of the Golden Girls.
This whole movie, which is shockingly only an hour and 40 minutes long, I found myself asking questions out loud, like, “Why would you leave the sink dripping like that, can’t you hear how loud it is?” “Why would you sit on the floor like that when the couch behind you looks like it was designed for daytime naps?” “Why would you sneak into your tenant’s basement apartment not once, but on multiple occasions, despite him having already caught you?”
Oh, right, she has a tenant named David (Wyatt Russell) who lives in her basement who is also very suspicious and pops in and out of the movie with reckless abandon. Are you wondering why I haven’t mentioned Julianne Moore yet? She lets herself into Anna’s house after the latter faints on her own stoop due to her agoraphobia. Instead of being frightened that this woman is in her house uninvited, Anna delights in having a buddy to drink red wine with, and all of a sudden they’re sharing trauma stories and joking about all of the pills Anna takes. I love both of these women, so believe me when I say, I wanted to like this moment so much more. But it is painfully awkward. Adams really shines here, because as she talks to Moore’s character, I really believe that she hasn’t spoken to another human being in a very, very long time.
In between these strange neighbor meetings, there’s plenty of footage of Anna sleeping, falling asleep drunk, and forgetting her phone. She also uses her fancy camera to spy on her neighbors, an activity that increased tenfold after Anna heard a scream coming from the Russell house. No one, not even her tenant, would confirm hearing the scream, but she immediately assumes the worst. Then, it seems all of her fears were founded, when she spots Jane Russell with a knife in her gut! Or at least that’s what she thought she saw. Did she take a picture since she was looking through her camera, you ask? No, but that would have been convenient, wouldn’t it? The comic book-style blood graphics that appear in this moment are akin to someone bumping into you on the sidewalk when you’re really into the podcast you were listening to. It completely shifts the balance, leaving you wondering, is this Sin City? Is the vibe supposed to be playful? Whimsical?
After calling the cops, the Russell’s arrive and drop a bombshell that finds Anna dumbfounded as those in the room begin to turn on her. I say “the room” because for some reason during every interaction with the police not only is Ethan there, but his entire family, which includes Gary Oldman as Alistair Russell. Why is it so easy to walk into Anna’s house if she has this fancy security system because of her agoraphobia? I could not say.
It was about this time that I noticed the text on the screen that read, “Sunday.” Has it been doing this the entire movie and I just didn’t notice it until now? What is the significance of the days? Having watched the movie in its entirety, I am sorry to say that I still do not have the answers for you. This then brings us to our third act which is absolutely bonkers and needs to be seen to believe.
I’m sure from this review you’d think I would tell you not to watch THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW. But in fact, I’d say the opposite. This movie is b-a-n-a-n-a-s bananas from beginning to end, but I’m so glad I hung in there because the third act alone makes it iconic. It’s almost so bad that it’s good. It’s not quite on the Labyrinth level when it comes to the so bad it’s good scale, but it’s fun, especially after having a drink or a few hits of the devil’s lettuce.
This movie is stacked with famous and talented actors, and though I can’t for the life of me figure out why, I’m still happy to see them. They could all do better, but here we are. So if here you are one day, wondering what to watch for full-on escape from our terrible reality, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is as good a choice as any. It’s streaming on Netflix now.