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‘The Woman in the Window’ won’t keep the viewer on the couch

Amy Adams plays a voyeur who witnesses the murder of her neighbor in a howler of a Netflix thriller

Agoraphobic psychologist Anna Fox (Amy Adams) can’t stop spying on the family across the street in “The Woman in the Window.”
Netflix

When the movie year draws to a close, there’s a solid chance “The Woman in the Window” will be the most prestigious project on my annual Worst Films of the Year list. Given the A-list talent level of the writer, director and stars, this is a stunningly bad film with deadly pacing, an overly busy visual style, cheap “GOTCHA!” moments and some wildly overwrought performances.

Maybe — JUST MAYBE — if you pour just the right glass of wine or sparkling water and you’re in the mood for a howler of a film that practically dares you to talk back to the screen, you can sit through this without wanting to scream. Maybe.

Based on the popular and well-received novel of the same name by A.J. Finn, adapted for the screen by the great actor-writer Tracy Letts of Steppenwolf and Broadway fame, directed by Joe Wright (“Atonement,” “Darkest Hour”) and starring multiple Academy Award nominee Amy Adams as well as Oscar winners Gary Oldman and Julianne Moore, “The Woman in the Window” has all the elements of awards season bait — but it’s barrel-bottom chum. Clearly inspired by the works of Alfred Hitchcock, most notably “Rear Window,” this stagey, clunky production is set almost entirely in and around the New York City apartment of Dr. Anna Fox (Adams), a psychologist with agoraphobia who is separated from her husband (Anthony Mackie) and daughter and seems to be suffering from paranoid delusions brought on by a dangerous mixture of meds and alcohol. Anna careens about her gloomy and cluttered apartment in a bathrobe, swilling wine and popping pills, talking on the phone with her estranged husband — and spying on the family that has just moved in across the street and conveniently keeps the curtains drawn at all hours.

Meet the Russell family, in the order Anna meets them as they come knocking and/or banging on her door, or sometimes just seem to materialize out of nowhere inside her apartment. The teenage son Ethan (Fred Hechinger) appears to be somewhere on the spectrum, and Anna suspects Ethan has been abused. Wife Jane (Julianne Moore) — that’s right, she’s Jane Russell, just like the old-timey movie star — is scattered and high-strung and seems more than a little dangerous. Then there’s Alistair Russell (Gary Oldman), who roars like a lion and continually warns Anna to mind her own business—but Anna can’t mind her own business when she witnesses Jane getting stabbed to death one night.

Problem is, when the cops are summoned, they can find no evidence a crime was committed, and Jane is just fine. Except that’s Jennifer Jason Leigh claiming SHE’S Jane Russell, and Julianne Moore is nowhere to be found, and what’s the deal with Anna’s creepy downstairs tenant David (Wyatt Russell) anyway? He’s clearly up to no good.

“The Woman in the Window” is filled with dramatic touches such as a dizzying overhead shot of a staircase, a skylight just begging for someone to come crashing through, pieces of evidence conveniently left lying about and visual references to far superior noir thrillers, including the aforementioned “Rear Window.” It’s also filled with cheap scares, false alarms, dumb cops, loud storms and tricky camera angles designed to make us feel as disoriented as Anna. The only thing those elements really succeed in doing is giving us a headache.