There is next to no thrill the viewer gets from seeing Adams huff her way through the scenes, wondering if she’s imagining things or if her life is even worth living.
Director Joe Wright
Screenplay Tracy Letts
Starring Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Wyatt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julianne Moore, Tracy Letts, Anthony Mackie, Fred Hechinger, Brian Tyree Henry
I don’t think I have really liked the shut in witnesses a murder story since Rear Window. The perspective is slanted to whatever one person can see, and so many things fall outside of the protagonist’s perview, it’s tough to get a great sense of mystery that doesn’t feel like cheating. This time, it’s Amy Adams taking on the protagonist’s role. She is Dr. Anna Fox, who used to have a career in child psychology, but lately has been separated from her husband and daughter while she drinks, takes prescription medicine and attempts to work herself out of agoraphobia.
One day the new neighbor boy Ethan Russell (Hechinger) comes over and spills just enough to get her interested. Then his mother (Moore) comes over and strikes up a friendly if somewhat revealing conversation. By the end of the first act, the mother is stabbed within the view of Anna, but she does not see who does it. She thinks it’s the father Alistair (Oldman) and she calls the police to report it.
What follows is absurd, not only because we know the killer from the moment we see them, but the shell game played at the benefit of no one. We know that the truth is being disguised by the Russells, we’re just being deceived on what exactly that truth reveals. In the meantime, we get a superb cast that is essentially relegated to cameos as Adams acts the hell out of her part.
Wright gives it his best shot at setting up a doll house with interesting vantages. Mostly though, he’s just putting rear window dressing on a Letts plot that is absent characters worth following for a few minutes, much less two hours.
There is next to no thrill the viewer gets from seeing Adams huff her way through the scenes, wondering if she’s imagining things or if her life is even worth living. The end result is just waiting for the inevitable reveal as the killer emerges from the shadows and gives the exposition that makes little sense and gives no sense of relief, when we realize Anna still has to live with herself.
(**1/2 out of *****)