I cannot tell you how nice it is to see and hear the 20th Century Fox spotlight sequence playing at the start of a movie again. I thought they had retired it after Disney bought the company but here it is, returned and buffed up- albeit with Fox now replaced by the word Studios.
You might think that me starting with this is an indication of how the film company logo was the thing I was most excited about with this whole film, and if this is true then perhaps it says more about me than it does the movie. Still, it is appropriate that the very very beginning of this film put me in mind of a certain cinematic history and had me thinking of other films that I have loved because actually so did everything that followed (if not with the same warm nostalgia).
The author of the bestselling novel that this is adapted from has been plagued with accusations of theft and unoriginality and it seems that rather than steering away from this, the film makers have rather embraced the same ‘good artists borrow, great artists steal’ sensibility and run with it. The most obvious comparisons to be made are with a certain James Stewart and Grace Kelly film. Here a housebound woman looks out, often through the long lens of a camera, at the apartments opposite and thinks she sees a crime take place. I mean, this could practically be called Rear Window Too, let’s be honest it practically is. To be fair though this is the one reference it owns, not only with that title but also with the inclusion of a clip from Hitchcock’s 1954 classic near the start. This is the first of a series movies including Laura, Spellbound and the Bogart and Bacall film Dark Passage that are edited in to The Woman in the Window in an interesting way that doesn’t quite work.
Beyond this though, the film also feels heavily reminiscent of a series of thrillers with home invasion elements from the 90s. Watching this you are definitely put in mind of things like Malice, Ransom, Copycat, Pacific Heights, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and Single White Female but the most fitting correlation is probably with the movies of this type that people enjoyed at the time but that have now totally passed from memory, like Fear, Unlawful Entry, Bad Influence and Eye for an Eye. The Woman in the Window is just like these movies, not only in plot and tone but because it is entertaining while you are watching it but also utterly forgettable.
There are other films I could mention but won’t for fear of spoilers but the two twists this does have are so unsurprising so as to barely register as twists at all (and I could have told you what the last shot would be from the minute this started). Still though, as stated it is sufficiently distracting time. Yes, the characters feel consciously written, the protagonist is almost the most normal of the lot and she is the one with crippling agoraphobia, but the cast has Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Jason Leigh (the single white female herself) and Julianne Moore so the performances are compelling. (Having Amy Adams at a window almost made me think of the best visual gag from The Muppets.) The story, which original or not was evidently quite the page turner, is interesting and the key location well designed.
The Woman in the Window is deeply derivative then but many of those other movies where great and there is enough here to pass the time even if it has all been done better elsewhere. If you’ve not seen the other films I mentioned then please don’t just watch this instead but if you have then there are worst ways to spend an evening and can be fun to reminisce. If nothing else you’ve got that iconic drums and trumpet fanfare.
The Woman in the Window is on Netflix