“The Woman in the Window” Review: Hitchcockian Vibes in a Movie That Won’t Make You Forget the Book

Amy Adams in “The Woman in the Window.” Photo Courtesy: Netflix

Rating: 5/10

Ever since I read A.J. Finn’s debut novel The Woman in the Window, I’ve been obsessed with its film adaptation. The 2018 book is the perfect heir to the throne of previous unputdownable psychological thrillers Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Finn — pen name for Daniel Mallory — worked as a book editor, studied Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley novels at Oxford, and “has a history of imposture, and of duping people with false stories about disease and death,” according to a 2019 New Yorker profile on the author that only makes his work seem more intriguing.

If all this hasn’t piqued your interest yet, let me tell you about The Woman in the Window’s movie version. It was adapted for the screen by Pulitzer Prize-winner and playwright Tracy Letts (August: Osage County), who also plays a small role in the movie; directed by frequent book-adapter Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina); and stars six-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams, as well as Gary Oldman, Anthony Mackie, Fred Hechinger, Brian Tyree Henry, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Julianne Moore.

It was supposed to be released in October of 2019 — primed for awards seasons and on the heels of the book’s success — but after test screenings that left early audiences confused, the movie underwent reshoots and the release was postponed until March 2020. Then the pandemic happened, movie theaters closed and The Woman in the Window ended up in a sort of movie limbo until it was sold to Netflix. Now, the streamer is releasing it on May 14, 2021.

Adams plays Anna Fox, an agoraphobic child psychologist who never leaves her New York brownstone and has a penchant for spying on her neighbors out of pure boredom. “Curiosity is evidence of a decreased depression pattern,” her therapist, played by Letts, tells her during an in-house session. She’s taking a new medication that doesn’t go well with alcohol. Yet she has a routine consisting of drinking generous amounts of red wine, looking out of the window to snoop on her neighbors, going online to snoop some more and watching film noirs.

Otto Preminger’s Laura (1944), Delmer Daves’ Dark Passage (1947) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945) make brief appearances in the movie as part of Anna’s entertainment, as does Rear Window. The Hitchcock film about a photographer (James Stewart) with a broken leg who can’t leave his place and believes he’s witnessed a crime in his neighbor’s apartment was a reference for the book — the home-bound Anna is also convinced she’s witnessed something sinister in the house across the street — and is paid homage in the movie. There are some Hitchcockian shots of Anna pointing the zoom lens of her camera toward her neighbors’ place that will make you want to rewatch Rear Window.