‘Woman in the House ...’ mocks the women in the thrillers — hilariously
Kristen Bell, popping pills and gulping wine, is a hoot in the over-the-top Netflix spoof of psychological murder mysteries.
Just last May, Netflix gave us the prestige-project psychological thriller “The Woman in the Window,” which was based on a well-received novel and adapted for the screen by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts and directed by Joe Wright of “Atonement” and “The Darkest Hour” and featured an A-list cast including multiple Oscar nominee Amy Adams and Academy Award winners Gary Oldman and Julianne Moore, and what could possibly go wrong?
An eight-part series available Friday on Netflix.
“The Woman in the Window” was a cliché-riddled, garage sale Hitchcock knockoff that was so bad there were times when I wanted to hit Pause just to say, “This is SO bad.” It was filled with cheap scares, false alarms, stupid cops, dumbed-down “gotcha” moments and annoyingly artsy camera angles. Other than that, perfect!
Now comes the Netflix limited series “The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window,” and that impossible-to-remember, ridiculously overlong title is the first indication this is a satire of all those novels-turned-movies-or-series featuring a female protagonist who has survived a tragedy but is drinking too much and downing too many prescription meds and believes she has witnessed a murder but maybe it’s all in her head, and her therapist is no help at all and nobody believes her …
It’s ludicrous. It’s WAY over the top. It’s cheerfully offensive. And it’s an absolute hoot, thanks to the spot-on performance from Kristen Bell, the insightful scripts from writers who clearly know the genre and the deft directing work by the veteran Michael Lehmann, best known for “Heathers.”
Bell plays it absolutely straight and down the middle, never winking at us throughout the increasingly insane proceedings, and in the process delivers one of the most impressive performances of her career as Anna, the lead character we always get in this type of juicy pulp nonsense. When we meet Anna, she’s wallowing in grief following the tragic death of her daughter, after which she was separated from her husband, Douglas (Michael Ealy). There was a time when Anna was a happy wife and mother and a painter with great promise — but now she spends her days and nights holed up in her suburban home, gobbling pills like M&M’s and drinking wine, lots and lots and lots of wine. She laps up so much vino the characters in “Sideways” would be concerned, as evidenced by the gigantic bowl overflowing with corks in her kitchen.
Anna rarely leaves her home, especially when it’s raining, because she has a severe case of rain-a-phobia, due to the fact it was raining on that fateful night when her daughter was killed. Most of the time, she just sits in her living room, staring out the window — which leads to the moment when Anna is convinced she has witnessed a MURDER in the house across the street, that’s right, a MURDER!
Or diiiiiiid she?
Tom Riley plays Neil, the handsome Brit widower and single father who has just moved into that house across the street, and it’s a shame Anna is pretty sure he’s a murderer, because she had struck up an instant connection to him and was considering a romance until she learned he has a gorgeous flight attendant girlfriend and also there’s a strong possibility he’s, you know, a killer.
Not that anyone believes Anna. When the cops arrive, there’s no body, no evidence of a crime — and they instantly suspect Anna is delusional, what with the pills and the wine and the grieving and the fact Anna is reading the psychological thriller “The Woman Across the Lake,” and there’s some meta humor for you. Even Anna’s once-sympathetic friends are gossiping about her drinking and snickering at her madness and telling her she’s lost it, e.g., when Carol the neighbor says, “I used to feel bad for you. But I do not feel bad for you anymore and I will not pray for you anymore!”
“The Woman etc., etc.” dutifully follows the thriller playbook, as Anna becomes an amateur detective who says, “Bingo!” whenever she unearths a new clue, and the list of suspects increases, and the cops are really and truly terrible at their jobs, and Anna keeps getting caught in the rain which results in temporary paralysis for her, and even though this is a pure satire we find ourselves actually caring about learning the identity of the killer — and when we do, it’s just so … WRONG on so many levels, and that’s what makes it so funny.