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.

The Glorias: Film Review

The Glorias

As a feminist and fan of Gloria Steinem, the well-known journalist and equal rights activist, I was excited to watch The Glorias, and while I came away satisfied that I had learned more about the feminist icon, I wasn’t particularly impressed by the biographical drama as a whole.

Julie Taymor‘s film features Steinem in four stages of her life – Ryan Kiera Armstrong plays her as a child, then Lulu Wilson as a teenager, Alicia Vikander from 20 to 40 years old, and Julianne Moore thereafter. The film begins with her childhood in 1940s Ohio and depicts her travels in India, her beginnings in journalism, her learning to speak in public with the help of Dorothy Pitman Hughes (Janelle Monae) and Florynce Kennedy (Lorraine Toussaint), and the creation of Ms. magazine and the ERA movement.

The film took ages to find its feet and I struggled to get into it for a while because Taymor played around with structure and made The Glorias all over the place chronologically – one moment we’re with Armstrong as a child and the next we’re in India with Vikander. Although it continues to do this throughout the movie, it happens slightly less – particularly once Steinem starts her journalism career – and you eventually get to grips with it.

The biopic is framed around all four Glorias riding together on a Greyhound bus to who knows where. Every so often the film returns to the bus and the Glorias will interact with each other and discuss a particular decision she made, such as the younger asking the older if she ever regretted not having children. It was incredibly jarring at first but I grew to like them because they gave us more insight and depth into Steinem than the other scenes, and the pay-off at the end – when you find out where they’re going – is cool.

Taymor also makes some interesting style choices, plays around with colour, and a couple of times throws in a surreal, fantasy scene that is just bizarre. Occasionally she’ll switch up the Glorias mid-scene and you’ll be left thinking, ‘Huh?! I swear it was Vikander just now?!’ and it’s just jarring and baffling. Also, there was logic to when the younger actresses changed but the switch from Vikander to Moore seemed to happen with no significant time jump and that made no sense.

I think Mrs. America will also have a big impact on how this is received. When The Glorias had its world premiere at Sundance in January 2020, the TV miniseries hadn’t come out yet, but by the time it got a release, the show had and it’s very easy to compare the two. For example, the section about Ms. magazine and the ERA is heavily depicted in the series so I knew all about that already and didn’t learn anything new, and you also can’t help but compare the performances too – Rose Byrne vs. Moore, Margo Martindale vs. Bette Midler as Bella Abzug, and Niecy Nash vs. Toussaint for Kennedy. Everyone was great but you just can’t help thinking about it.

My favourite Gloria was Moore – she felt more like the real deal and looked the part too. As much as I love Vikander as an actress, she didn’t look like Steinem and her accent was very inconsistent. I enjoyed Midler as the loud Abzug, Toussaint as the bold Kennedy, and I would have liked more of Monae as the kind and understanding Hughes.

If like me, you presumed this would be a straightforward biopic, you will be very much mistaken. At almost two and a half hours, it’s far too long, and it struggles in the beginning and starts to drag towards the end, but I still found it insightful and engaging.

On Sky Cinema from Sunday 7th March

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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