Everyone in "The Woman in the Window" thinks Amy Adams is out of her mind. The question is: Do we?
The adaptation of A.J. Finn's blockbuster novel has an intriguing, deeply cinematic idea. Its agoraphobic heroine, a psychologist named Anna (Adams), spends every day in sleepwear, drinking, abusing prescription meds and watching old black-and-white movies on TV. Grieving the end of a marriage, she's gone down such a dark hole that the movies begin to blur with her life, which director Joe Wright visualizes by blending clips from "Laura" and "Rear Window" into scenes of Anna dozing on her sofa with a half-empty bottle of booze.
Anna is presented as a possibly unreliable narrator. So we're not sure whom to believe when she is peeping on her neighbors through both binoculars and a camera — Wright's slightly too obvious nod to the exact things Jimmy Stewart used in "Rear Window." She believes she sees a neighbor played by Gary Oldman stab his wife, played all too briefly by a manic Julianne Moore. Should the police listen to her? Should we?
The release of "Woman" was delayed several times, reportedly because test audiences didn't like it, so it's pleasing to learn it's not as bad as folks in the movie biz have been saying. It's intelligently made, the cast is excellent (Brian Tyree Henry and Jennifer Jason Leigh have supporting roles) and the heightened melodrama of the life-blending-into-movies thing keeps "Woman" lively for about an hour.
It gets dicier after that, though. Most of the movie takes place in Anna's head as she sees — or imagines — terrible things happening outside her swank Harlem brownstone, and even in it. She suspects that her tenant is up to no good. (He's played by Wyatt Russell, who always looks like he's just returned from knocking off a bank, so it's hard to blame her.)
Those in-Anna's-brain scenes worked well in the twistorama book but it's harder to get them across in the more visual world of the movies. That's probably why the ending, which was dazzling on paper, falls flat on screen.
Also, as was true in the "The Girl on the Train," reading about a person as damaged as Anna is different from watching her slide into despair. The book was so intent on flipping from one unlikely development to the next that it was giddy fun to follow along. But that's not true of the movie, which feels less like a thriller than the grim tale of a very depressed woman.
Chris Hewitt • 612-673-4367
The Woman in the Window
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: R for language and violence.