Published on February 4th, 2022 | by Kim Kurtenbach0
The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window (2022)
Desperate for another Rear Window, KK finds a new mini-series and a movie that are nearly identical in plot – but are either watchable?
Okay, buckle up. The full title of this article was supposed to be The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window (2022) and The Woman In The Window (2021), but it was too long to fit.
To be clear, I’m talking about two different shows here. One is the just released tv mini-series starring Kristen Bell (love her) and the other is a movie from last year starring Amy Adams (also mucho amor). They are both crime/drama/mystery/thrillers (available on Netflix), but the mini-series is also a satirical black comedy, and that’s the only difference. Seriously, it’s the same story. Like, exactly the same story. Since I won’t be bothered to type out that ridiculous title in full again and we need to differentiate the two, let’s call the mini-series Bell and the movie Adams as we continue.
If The Rolling Stones can cock-block Richard Ashcroft and The Verve on royalties for two decades (they did – ie. Bitter Sweet Symphony vs The Last Time) or Marvin Gaye’s estate could sue Robin Thicke successfully (they did, $5.5M+ – ie. Blurred Lines vs Got To Give It Up) than a lawsuit against Bell by Adams should be a slam-dunk. But, strangely, I can’t find a connection between the two.
Here’s how both movies go: a woman with depression issues is living alone. Check. She drinks too much and takes prescription pills. Check. She can’t go outside (slight difference here; one woman has agoraphobia, the other ombrophobia). Check. A new neighbour moves in right across the street. Check. The woman sees a bloody murder across the street. Check. She calls 911 but no body or evidence is found so no one believes the drunk pill-popper. Check-ski. The woman makes an obsessive and determined investigation of her own. Check-a-roo. I could go on and offer more detailed comparisons, but I think you get the idea. Needless to say, the remaining story of each parallel one other like train tracks. Funny thing is that Adams is based on the A.J. Finn novel of the same name, while Bell is a Netflix…um, original.
Before I offer my opinion of whether or not Bell or Adams are worth your time, I want to address how I ended up watching a one-hour-forty minute movie right after a three-hour-thirty minute mini-series when I already suspected they would be the same thing. Plus, neither had a review score above mediocre.
Short answer? That’s how much I love Rear Window (1954). Expanded answer? I love murder mysteries. Rear Window is as good as they get, but I’ve also written about Knives Out (2019) and North By Northwest (1959) as they are part of a specific genre of movies that might also include Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) and Murder On The Orient Express (1974). These movies are tricky because they follow a formula and require specific check-points, like a romance novel. That means the entire category is easily susceptible to potboilers and pandering if not executed with thoughtful planning, careful storytelling and expert directing. A list of the exceptional movies in this category is short and tight so, once the top shelf bottles are empty, fans like me end up drinking a lot of swill in the hopes that one of the remaining choices isn’t too bad.
And so I started with Bell, knowing I had nothing to lose and could shut it off after an episode or two if I really hated it. I didn’t. It was utterly redonkulous, but that wasn’t apparent right away. It was subtle. Kristen Bell plays her part super-straight and so, at first, it seems like the show can’t decide what it wants to be. Is this supposed to be satire, bad thriller, comedy, pulp or parody? Bell is maybe a little of each, but it helped me to think of it more like I was watching someone’s dream. There is always something a little off in almost every scene, just like a dream. For example, each time Anna visits her daughter’s grave, the inscription on her headstone is different. Every time Anna pours a glass of wine – which she does about 100 times in eight episodes – the amount poured from the bottle and the amount filling the glass never match, but these are not continuity errors, they are embellishments of reality. And it’s quietly funny to see someone, regardless of their profound misery, pour a glass of red wine to the brim and then cover it with their phone to carry it without spilling.
Think about describing one of your dreams to a friend. You explain, ‘We were at your house, but it was your old house – the one you grew up in. And it was exactly the same but on the 20th floor of a condo and we were jumping off the balcony into the pool. The other tenants called the police and when they showed up, one of the officers jumped from the balcony into the pool to show us that it’s dangerous, so we went to a Red Lobster in our swim trunks and ate with the cops.’ Even in a movie that would seem silly. It might work in a screwball comedy, but how could that be made to be dramatic tension in a drama or even action movie? Dreams, like Bell, are filled with exaggerated, cryptic, nonsense.
The way the show succeeds is by taking each scene seriously, but not the entirety of the series. It is tongue-in-cheek parody with a strong backbone of near-drama. How else could we have narration like this: “To get to the bottom of something, sometimes you have to remind yourself that if you don’t risk anything, you risk everything. And the biggest risk you can take is to risk nothing. And if you risk nothing, what you’re really doing is risking not getting to the bottom of something. And if you don’t get to the bottom of something, you risk everything.” Try saying that as seriously as you can without laughing. You can’t. Because laughing is serious, and being serious is sometimes laughable. (Jesus. Now I’m doing it.)
Adams, on the other hand, pitches itself as serious from the onset. There’s nothing funny about the way that our depressed heroine pours her wine or the hallucination induced, paranoid assumptions she makes about her tenant downstairs, the neighbour across the street, her therapist or any of the other characters. Adams attempts a suspenseful thriller but fails due to false tensions, and it gets pretty desperate. At one point, the soundtrack screeches as Anna (Amy Adams) claws desperately under the bed to reach her phone, but there’s no reason to be hysterical. All she did was misplace her phone earlier when she was, you guessed it, drunk.
The downstairs tenant, David (Wyatt Russell) is suspiciously secretive until he suddenly spills his guts about his past in a fit of rage. In the next moment, he’s begging Anna to give him time to ‘sort it out’, but he’s asking for time to fix a problem that he just created. It makes no sense for the character to shift like that. The closest the show gets to delivering real chills is when we watch the new neighbour, Allister (Gary Oldman), explode with rage. Oldman is still a scary son-of-a-bitch on screen, capable of delivering terror, but his scenes are short. Same with Julianne Moore, who blazes as a fire-ball of crazy for one scene. And don’t blink too much or you’ll miss Jennifer Jason Leigh altogether.
The police detectives are, you guessed it again, lazy and incompetent. And they are eternally grateful when the case they weren’t working very hard on is solved by a drunk, medicated shut-in who is, for some reason, a better and more tenacious detective than any person on the NYPD. Of course, these police don’t seem to follow any rules of procedure that align with reality. Same as in Bell, so…check-a-doodle-doo. Again.
And, last thing before I stick a kitchen knife in this article and let it die: I love blinds. When I’m home alone, I close the blinds. Sometimes I walk around half naked, sometimes I dance (very, very badly) or play air guitar or stare at the wall and pick my nose. Doesn’t matter. Point is, I don’t want my neighbours looking through my windows and seeing any of this. So why, WHY, when these people in movies find out the neighbour is watching them with binoculars do they not close. the. fucking. blinds?
I love these stories, just not the execution. The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window is a lot better than The Woman In The Window simply because it delivers a specific story in the murder/mystery genre with a real twist we weren’t expecting – parody. Neither are remotely as good as Rear Window, perhaps the first of its kind in this category. To this day – 68 years later – it still holds up. The set design, soundtrack, script, dialogue are all razor sharp. In all three, no actor is as good as Jimmy Stewart and no actress is as captivating as Grace Kelly (my god, she almost melted the screen). If these were horror movies, it might look like this: Rear Window = The Shining (1980), Adams = Scream 3 (2000) and Bell = Scary Movie (2000).
So do what you will with this opinion of mine. To each their own, but if you’re a fan of murder mystery like I am, you know that it’s rare we get a Maltese Falcon (1941), Doube Indemnity (1944), Silence of the Lambs (1991), Zodiac (2007) or even a Shutter Island (2010). So for now, movies like The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window and The Woman In The Window will have to hold us until the next Benoit Blanc whodunit (a.k.a. Knives Out 2) later this year.