Critics Are Wrong on ‘The Woman in the Window’
The Tour de France starring Amy Adams is more of an experimental winner than a repetitive bust.
Broken people tend to fix themselves in broken ways. So be it with our debutante Dr. Anna Fox played by Amy Adams in The Woman in the Window. Dr. Fox awakes from a hazy star-filled dream in our opening sequence, followed by our peek around her house, an appropriate virtual tour in the era of Coronapoclypse. The house — hints of Boston, hints of Princeton, hints of New York. Dr. Fox, our protagonist, is living a lifestyle reserved for the artists and the successful. Nestled on the kitchen island is an open bottle of red wine, sitting next to its glass, call it, one-eighth full. A dollhouse. A child? These dolls look all out of order in a perfectly-in-order kind of way — as if mother never gets the chance to tell daughter “time to put the toys away.”
Our self-guided tour ends with newspapers stacked against the front door, our protagonist not caring about the latest trends of gas shortages and pandemics. We catch a glimpse of the spiderweb skylight, covered with a touch of… brown spots? The same kinds filled with myotoxins leading to hallucination and psychosis? Back to sweetness — we gloss over pictures of a beautiful brown skin girl antithesized with an empty bed.
Pills pills pills, so many pills! Why is our protagonist having a phone call with no phone in her hand? Alas, we find out the newspapers are stacked next to the door because our protagonist chooses to speak of her critical intelligence skillset with only her counselor. Curiosity is evidence of a decreased depression pattern says our doctor. We can watch the prayer group and the dogs all from our window, discover who our new neighbors are from Google rather than an introduction, and be controlled by our psychologist right in the confines of our very living room.
Coughing and laughing into another dream, our protagonist takes us along the journey of meeting David, played by up-and-coming Disney starboy Wyatt Russell. Maybe meeting candle-yielding Ethan, young and innocent, and being told a psychologist is cooler than, ya-know, a Taco Bell chef, is enough to laugh us to sleep. We catch a glimpse of that beautiful stained glass door as David offers to purchase some candy for the trick-or-treaters tonight. We politely decline, as we have ethics — what if a kind-looking child isn’t so kind after all, and he or she snatches up more candy than being offered to them?
Take that, David! We did it, we truly did it. We stayed inside on Halloween night, cuddled away with our thoughts and our conclusions. But now, we realize, as our protagonist frantically fights off children egging her house, she’s actually known as the woman in the window throughout the community — why else would a doctor have contracted a doctor to doctor a doctor?
Aaaah, rescued by Ms. Jane Russell, who we know the name of before she even introduces herself. For a few moments, I think I’m looking in the eyes of Hope Davis, being brought back into a world of Wayward Pines meets Silence of the Lambs. Aaah. That’s why this film is giving me major lambs vibes — this is Julianne Moore, who discreetly replaced Jodie Foster in the Hannibal film. Well, whoever the heck is playing Ms. Russell right now, the chemistry with Adams is unmatched, as our protagonist flaunts over a heart-shaped necklace and quickly drawn yet delicate sketch of us. We discuss family and medicine— Inderal to be used as a beta-blocker (is this film just too AP Chem for our critics?) and wine for the depression. “Pretty sure you’re not supposed to be taking these with alcohol.” Didn’t Anthony Mackie tell us these same words earlier? “Thank you for the candle.”
The Production Design team of this film, spearheaded by Ad Astra’s Kevin Thompson, dots all of the i’s and crosses all the t’s as the streets of Harlem are now teepeed, stemming from the ruckus enacted earlier. We have seen Gary Oldman’s Alistair Russell through the window for the past few days, but now we get to meet him, as he lets himself past the eggs and into our foyer, and we tell him we never spent the night with Jane. Did David say something about us to Alistair when lending him the toolbox?
Our protagonist carries a distrust of David with herself throughout the remainder of the film. When we hear screams, the important candle means little as we knock it over scrambling to find our phone. Everyone tells us there are no screams, our tenant David doesn't hear screams. Maybe they’re right. Our protagonist is changing… subtly. We close the pull coverings over our windows for the first time when watching Jane, our new friend, our only friend, as she fights with Alistair. “Give him hell, Jane.” Wait! Our friend is dying, we know she’s dying. We call 911. The operator thinks we’re a killer! This wasn't us — this was all David and we know it…
The Woman in the Window currently rests at 26% on Rotten Tomatoes and 41/100 on Metacritic. Now usually I wouldn’t bother watching such a reviewed film, but the okay-with-a-strong-ending Best Picture-winning 93/100 Nomadland caused me to rethink that strategy a bit.
Our protagonist in Nomadland, Fran, possesses a true above-average American grit that gets her through the struggles of nomadic life. Fran’s story, portrayed by Frances McDormand, is one experienced so often yet explained so little. Fran and Dr. Fox both possess an above-average sense of emotional intelligence. Fran in fixing her shattered family heirloom of a plate, then helping the very hospitalized friend who shattered the plate, and Dr. Fox in her pursuit of justice throughout her self-investigation of a friend’s murder. Dr. Fox remains traumatized by the guilt-filled recurrent events appearing in her dreams, and Fran remains traumatized by the guilt-filled… inability to feel perfectly American? “People thought you were weird, but really, you were just braver and more honest than any of us… I would've loved to have you around all these years. You left a big hole by leaving.”¹
The Woman in the Window is a film in which the viewer would be wise to stick around long enough to figure out what causes Dr. Fox’s big holes. As I studied Critical Intelligence at the Eagleton Institute of Politics, I wondered how many of the investigators of death and nuclear explosion-wannabes and global insanity moved into this space after being plagued by deaths within their own personal lives. Given another set of circumstances, Dr. Fox would be using her skillset to mend the world’s wounds and settle international business disputes (five-five — he was asking for six). Chloé Zhao ends Nomadland with Fran driving away in her car followed by the superimposition of Dedicated to the ones who had to depart. Maybe our beloved Dr. Fox will one day get to, have to, depart after all.∎
¹Bruder, Jessica and Chloé Zhao. Nomadland. Directed by Chloé Zhao, Highwayman Films, Cor Cordium Productions, Hear/Say Productions, 2021.