The Woman in the Window: Netflix Film Review

The Woman in the Window

As much as I love Amy Adams, I didn’t have the highest hopes for The Woman in the Window because I was massively underwhelmed by A.J. Finn‘s novel and doubted that the film adaptation could make significant improvements upon the source material. However, I didn’t expect it to be quite so bad.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Adams stars as Anna Fox, an agoraphobic child psychologist who is mentally unstable, an alcoholic and misusing her pills. She lives alone in a huge New York City townhouse and spends her days talking to her estranged husband Ed (Anthony Mackie) and daughter Olivia on the phone, drinking heavily, watching old movies, and spying on her neighbours, especially the Russells, who have just moved in across the street. One night, she witnesses Jane Russell (Julianne Moore) getting stabbed in her home and calls the police. However, when Detective Little (Brian Tyree Henry) comes to investigate, Jane Russell (now Jennifer Jason Leigh) and her husband Alistair (Gary Oldman) present themselves and insist she is mistaken. What is going on?!

The story is basically Rear Window – with the unreliable narrator angle giving off The Girl on the Train vibes – and it’s obvious director Joe Wright was trying to make an Alfred Hitchcock-style classic thriller thanks to some of the weird stylistic flourishes he rips right out of the Hitchcock playbook, but it was never going reach those heights because it remains rather loyal to the source material’s disappointing story.

With the novel, I really enjoyed the mystery of the two Jane Russells, finding out Anna’s backstory and whether what she saw was real, and it was told from Anna’s first-person point of view so you could truly get into her unreliable mindset. I find films struggle to bring that unreliable narrator essence to life because we’re watching from an outsider’s perspective (The Girl on the Train had this issue too). As a result, we judge her more and are more likely to be on the side of the people who don’t believe her, blaming it on the mix of alcohol and pills giving her hallucinations.

Also, in the book, the third act was such a letdown, it ruined what had come before it. Finn failed to stick the landing and make a believable twist and that’s the same here, even though there are some differences. I generally try to avoid spoilers in my reviews but because most of my issue with the film is to do with the twist, I’ve decided to go for spoilers here.

Not enough time was given to Anna’s friendship with the Russells’ son Ethan (Fred Hechinger) throughout the movie to make the revelation that he’s a psycho shocking. There also isn’t enough explanation from Ethan as to why he’s killed multiple people – for example, what did his father’s colleague Pamela do to warrant being murdered?! His motivations made no sense and everything happens too quickly for the information to sink in before it’s all over. Putting Anna’s lodger David (Wyatt Russell) in this final showdown was a good idea as it added more thrill and drama and there’s a new horrifying gory moment that seemed out of place with the rest of the movie but it certainly made me gasp! Also, the “nine months later” epilogue – which is completely different to the book – annoyed me because I refuse to believe that an agoraphobic with as many issues as Anna (whose backstory isn’t explored anywhere near enough here) can become completely fine in that time and be able to go outside and move house with ease.

I have seen some criticism of Adams’ performance but I didn’t have an issue with it, I thought she was fine. My biggest issue was Hechinger as I believe Ethan’s twist could have been handled so much better in a different pair of hands, even if the script was still rather poor, and Oldman, whose performance was so over-the-top and lacked any sense of nuance and subtlety. I appreciate that Alistair is a stressed man pissed off with his snooping interfering neighbour but his acting didn’t need to be so big and loud.

I liked Russell as David and I’m glad the character got a meatier storyline for the movie and Henry as the sensitive and compassionate cop. It’s hard to comment on Moore, Leigh and Mackie because they have such small roles. I know this was a highly-anticipated film adaptation of a best-selling book when they shot in back in 2018 but I’m surprised they signed up for such minor parts – their talents are wasted! Considering the film has been through extensive reshoots and edits, I can’t help but wonder how much footage of them has been left on the cutting room floor.

The Woman in the Window is not the disaster some headlines are declaring it to be. Yes, it is messy, the acting is bad in places, and the third act is an absolute fail, but I still enjoyed watching it.

Streaming on Netflix now

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Mank: Netflix Film Review

Mank

Having David Fincher‘s name attached to a project is usually a promising sign. I love several of his movies and had high expectations about his latest one, Mank, but I came away from it pretty disappointed. 

Based on a screenplay by Fincher’s late father Jack, Mank tells the story of Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), who was hired to write the script for Orson Welles’ 1941 classic Citizen Kane. The main action takes place in 1940 when the alcoholic tries to write the script without his booze and is laid up in bed in a cast following a car accident. There are also many flashbacks throughout the early 1930s which illustrate Mank’s friendship with publisher William Rudolph Hearst (Charles Dance) and his partner, actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), who are said to be the inspiration for the main characters in Citizen Kane. 

The drama surrounding Citizen Kane, from Welles’ and Mank’s dispute over the writing credit to Hearst’s response to the movie, is real-life material ripe for a movie portrayal and I would have found that version of the story fascinating. But Mank doesn’t tell the story I was expecting it to. I was thinking it was going to portray the writing of it, the credit dispute and then perhaps the making of it and the fallout. But it focuses more on Mank himself, and, perhaps more surprisingly, studio system politics and a 1934 California gubernatorial election. I would have much preferred the focus to have been on Mank and Citizen Kane, not the rest of it. 

Mank is all over the place, and it’s very hard to keep track of the timeline of events and who’s who because it jumps around a lot. This film features so many famous faces from Old Hollywood and it assumes the viewer knows who everyone is, so I had to spend some time Googling (the beauty of watching at home) so I could grasp what was going on, and even then, I still had trouble remembering who someone was the next time they came back onscreen. 

I can appreciate Mank in certain respects though. It is a very ambitious movie, with a stunning black-and-white look, and Fincher had a clear vision that he executed well. There are some big get-together scenes which stand out as being particularly enjoyable and interesting to watch. And then there are the performances. Oldman gives an impressive performance as Mank and convinces as someone who is basically drunk all the time. But the star of the show was easily Seyfried, who is magnetic and captivating as the blonde bombshell Davies. She is the heart of the piece and had a vivacious, sparkly presence that injected life into every scene she’s in. They are a few more recognisable faces in this from Lily Collins as Mank’s secretary Rita Alexander, Tuppence Middleton as his wife Sara, and Tom Burke as Welles. The latter casting makes no sense – Burke is 39 when Welles was 25 in 1940. 

I could appreciate Fincher’s vision but Mank doesn’t work for me. I didn’t care about or connect with the story or the characters and I was never engrossed in it. I would maybe like it more on a second watch as I now understand the chronology of events and who everyone is, but I won’t be doing that any time soon – Mank is hard to follow and sometimes dull and ends as the real-life drama gets interesting. 

In selected cinemas now and on Netflix from Friday 4th December 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Laundromat: Film Review

I was really gutted when The Laundromat press screening was scheduled for after I left Venice this year – I love Steven Soderbergh and the cast he’s assembled – but it turns out I didn’t miss much at all. The Laundromat is a proper misfire.

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My pictures from the 2018 BAFTAs

Timothee Chalamet

Last night, I had the privilege of attending the BAFTAs and I was on both the red carpet and in the winners’ press conference room, and you can see all the pictures I took below.

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Top Films for January

It’s not just the start of a new month this time – it’s also the start of a new year! For this special version of my monthly movie preview, I look at what’s due for release in the UK in January 2018.

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What I learned from Anthony McCarten’s BAFTA Screenwriters’ Lecture

Anthony McCarten, who wrote the scripts for The Theory of Everything and the upcoming Darkest Hour, recently came to BAFTA’s headquarters in Piccadilly, London to give a lecture about his approach to screenwriting.

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The Hitman’s Bodyguard: Film Review 

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is one of those films that are so difficult to review because you just don’t know what to make of it. It is so thoroughly inconsistent – great one minute and really bad the next – that is really is a headscratcher.

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Churchill: Film Review

We’ve recently seen Winston Churchill in The Crown, played by the award-winning John Lithgow and will we soon see him again in Darkest Hour, where he is portrayed by Gary Oldman. So do we need another one in the meantime? Well, probably not, but at least in Churchill we are presented with a different moment in time and an impressive performance by Brian Cox.

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The Space Between Us: Film Review

Courtesy of STX Entertainment

I love a sci-fi and I love a teen romance story so The Space Between Us seemed like the perfect combination. I love Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino and think Asa Butterfield is very cute so it’s a shame this movie is a bit too sentimental and a massive cheese fest.

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Criminal: Film Review

Kevin Costner’s latest action thriller is batshit crazy and unintentionally hilarious but so completely entertaining, mostly at its own expense.

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