After several release delays, we’re finally getting The Woman in the Window on Netflix, a psychological thriller starring Amy Adams that’s based on the novel of the same name. It’s a wild ride, to say the least: an unhinged fever dream of hallucinations, red wine, and Julianne Moore with platinum blonde hair.
Let me be clear: That doesn’t mean this movie is particularly good. I don’t think The Woman in the Window will sweep awards season, despite its supremely talented cast, but it’s fun to watch—on par with other viral Netflix thrillers like Deadly Illusions and Secret Obsession. Of course, the cast of Woman in the Window elevates it, but the sauce is still primarily campy, twisty, and turn-y.
Warning: Spoilers ahead. Turn back now if you haven’t watched The Woman in the Window to the end.
The story centers on Anna Fox (Adams), an agoraphobic woman confined to her home in New York City. She lives a relatively quiet existence, but then a new family moves across the street and changes everything. Meet the Russells: Alistair (Gary Oldman), Jane (Moore), and their 15-year-old son, Ethan (Fred Hechinger). When Ethan brings Anna a candle one night, the two develop a sweet friendship; Jane comes over another night, and she and Anna share some wine and become friendly. After that, things get weird. One night, Anna peers out her window and sees Jane get murdered, presumably by Alistair. She calls the cops, they come, but something’s wrong: They say Jane is completely unharmed and very much alive. But the woman they present to Anna is not the Jane she remembers: It’s a completely different person.
So, what the hell is going on? Well, for 70ish minutes, you have no idea. Anna spends almost the entire movie spinning around her apartment, downing red wine, and trying to figure out the truth. Is this new woman actually Jane? Or is Julianne Moore Jane? Who! Is! Jane! I’m going to say Jane one more time. Jane.
Moving on to the last 25 minutes of the movie, when all is revealed in the sharpest, most baffling pivot possible. It turns out, the new Jane is the real Jane, and Julianne Moore is a woman named Katie, Ethan’s estranged, biological mom who keeps trying to be in his and Alistair’s life. This ends poorly when Ethan—yes, 15-year-old Ethan—murders his mom. You see, he’s an aspiring serial killer, despite showing no signs of it, and now he wants to kill Anna (???). A showdown to end all showdowns transpires with very bad visual effects, a garden-hand-rake injury I’m still traumatized by, and Anna eventually killing Ethan is the goriest way possible.
It’s a lightning-jolt of an ending that’s very enjoyable to watch but feels slightly unearned. The “twist,” a.k.a Ethan is the killer, is beloved by fans of the Woman in the Window novel. But in the movie it’s explained to you in dialogue, plainly, by Amy Adams. According to Vanity Fair, the initial cut of the movie confused audiences, so much so that it went into reshoots. Is the ending what tripped viewers up? And did the movie’s director solve the problem by just verbally revealing the twist? Who’s to say, but after watching the movie in full, that’s my theory. The first two-thirds of it are tense and well-paced, but the ending is just…slapped together. It almost feels like a different film.
Which is why I found it so puzzling—and why others might too. So my advice would be to just take this movie for what it is: a fun, popcorn thriller featuring Julianne Moore insulting Amy Adams’s house five minutes after meeting her. Honestly, that was the most jaw-dropping part of the whole thing.
The Woman in the Window is now streaming on Netflix.
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