Anna Fox lives on the Upper West side of Manhattan. She likes to look across the street and observe her neighbors. You would, too, if you hadn’t been outside for 10 months. Anna’s the title character in “The Woman in the Window.” Or is the title character one particular person among those she watches?
Some people might find Anna’s behavior creepy, even if understandable. But she’s played by Amy Adams, so the creepiness just lurks around the edges. That said, a lot of lurking is going on in Anna’s life, and not just around the edges. She suffers from agoraphobia and depression. She’s separated from her husband, who has custody of their 8-year-old. She’s taking lots of anti-depressants, prescribed by her therapist, and she’s also drinking a lot of wine. Yes, she knows this is bad for her. It might make her hallucinate, for example. No, she doesn’t care.
Anna owns a fancy camera and uses it. She also likes to watch old movies (another thing that makes her sympathetic, at least to some of us). “The Woman in the Window” intercuts glimpses of “Laura,” “Dark Passage,” “Spellbound,” and, yes, “Rear Window.” We see that last one just seconds into “Woman,” so it’s not as if director Joe Wright isn’t up-front about where it’s coming from — or going to.
“Woman” is a lot trickier than “Rear Window,” if also fairly lackluster, as the Hitchcock classic definitely is not. What the Netflix original has going for it is a stellar cast. It includes neighbors Gary Oldman and Jennifer Jason Leigh. (“Woman” reunites Oldman with Wright, from “Darkest Hour.”) Anthony McKie plays Anna’s husband. McKie’s “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” costar Wyatt Russell is Anna’s basement tenant. As a police detective, Brian Tyree Henry nicely combines vexation and sympathy, Anna supplying a lot of the former and needing just as much of the latter. Julianne Moore gets only one scene, but she really runs with it. Tracy Letts, who adapted A.J. Finn’s best-selling novel, plays the therapist.
Plausibility does not figure on Wright’s to-do list. The number of red herrings might account for why Anna’s Persian cat looks so well fed. Anna’s willingness to open her door to a new neighbor seems highly out of character. The tenant goes from hippie-mellow to oddball-sinister faster than a New York (or at least Upper West Side) minute. The therapist makes house calls (!). Anna’s brownstone has an interior the size of the Pentagon. Well, not quite that big, but a Russian oligarch on the lam from Putin wouldn’t feel too cramped inside there.
“The Woman in the Window” is a thriller, as you’ve no doubt figured out, but also has a throwback, Bette Davis vibe — Adams gets to do a lot of emoting — with a touch of horror movie thrown in. The brownstone doubles as a kind of haunted house, right down to the movie’s it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-night denouement, a denouement with Grand Guignol aspects. Let’s just say that while the obvious comp here is “Rear Window,” there’s a wee touch of “Psycho,” too. That sort of makes sense. Just as there’s always room at the Bates Motel, there’s plenty of space in that brownstone.
THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW
Directed by Joe Wright. Written by Tracy Letts, based on A.J. Finn’s novel. Starring Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Wyatt Russell, Brian Tyree Henry. On Netflix. 100 minutes. R (violence, language)
Mark Feeney can be reached at email@example.com.