Land pornography can work for a spine chiller — or against it. At times, it’s important for a film’s secret and appeal: the luxury little hiding where terrible energies can stow away. (See “Rosemary’s Infant” or “What Lies Underneath.”) Yet in “The Lady in the Window,” a film that happens completely in one old dull house, the masterful Harlem brownstone where Anna Fox (Amy Adams) lives is a film set of such melancholy palatial magnificence that the spot takes steps to overpower all that occurs inside it.
Anna is a worry wort of an agoraphobe who hasn’t left the house in 10 months. It’s her case, her jail, her dignified dream chamber. (It is likewise, from its appearance, worth $5 to 10 million, so it’s difficult to feel not good enough for her.) The high-ceilinged rooms are washed in a shadowy shine, the quieted colors left over from a maturing redesign, with a winding wooden flight of stairs that expands so far up it never appears to end. It’s an abode fit for the Brilliant Ambersons, or possibly a decent frightful.
However, there are no apparitions here. There is simply Anna, popping her mixed drink of professionally prescribed prescriptions (as she swallows the red wine she shouldn’t drink), accepting house calls from her laconic specialist (Tracy Letts) in a rich examination, and talking on the telephone to the spouse (Anthony Mackie) she’s isolated from (they have a 8-year-old little girl, who lives with him). Anna is a therapist herself — a youngster analyst — who does not work anymore. By one way or another, however, all that breathtaking neo-Victorian land continues to take steps to cause her agoraphobia to appear to be a type of privilege.
“The Lady in the Window,” coordinated by Joe Wright (“Breaking point”) and prearranged by Letts, adjusting A.J. Finn’s 2018 novel, is a film that couldn’t want anything more than to be called Hitchcockian. There are numerous ways for a spine chiller to acquire that award of applause. Here are a couple of ways not to. Don’t, in 2021, have your champion learn vital data by peering through the huge front window of her neighbors’ home across the road. Valid, the procedure worked for James Stewart in “Back Window” (1954), who was investigating the back patio of his Greenwich Town condo. In any case, during the ’50s, when people confided in one another more, that kind of easy chair voyeurism-with-optics could feel true; today, individuals carrying out significant wrongdoings watch out for close the blinds. What’s more, when it comes time to have your courageous woman witness a homicide, don’t have the executioner employ a kitchen blade actually like the one utilized by Norman Bates in “Psycho.” As a weapon, that specific utensil has been done to death. Additionally, don’t ward slicing off to DVD clasps of well known old high contrast thrill rides, as though to point out the amount you long to be in their organization.
In particular, don’t make your champion a storyteller so temperamental that we can’t tell where her fantastic daydreams leave off and the film’s they-did-that? no-they-didn’t! inventions start. Anna, restless and discouraged, yet additionally fretful with interest, has started to keep an eye on the condo of her new neighbors, who have as of late showed up from Boston. The thing is, they continue coming over, presenting themselves with a profoundly emphasized enthusiasm that makes us can’t help thinking about why they’re acting that way.
There is Ethan (Fred Hechinger), only 15, who has the silly jumpiness of a lesser Joaquin Phoenix. There’s his dad, an evil English chief named Alistair Russell (Gary Oldman, in a stun of white hair), who gets going snappy and gets angrier with every appearance, until it begins to seem like the exhaust of his aggression may shoot him into space. There’s Ethan’s mom, played by Julianne Moore with a chuckling overfamiliarity simply this side of unhinged. Furthermore, there’s Anna’s storm cellar inhabitant (Wyatt Russell), an abrupt long-haired millennial artist who has avoided his parole and keeps springing up and frightening Anna, despite the fact that she welcomed him to come in at whatever point he needs to. The fundamental inquiry raised by this character is: The reason would Anna, who has a social-nervousness issue and possesses a house this humongous, trouble to lease the cellar?