A spoof gone too far
Netflix's Woman In The House is a great psychological thriller but could do without the forced satire
Don't get confused if you start watching the American comedy-thriller miniseries The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window and feel like you have seen it before. For whatever reason, The Woman In The House is a revamped version of the plot of another Netflix original titled The Woman In The Window, which came out last year and featured Amy Adams.
Without Adams' presence, the new version has expanded into an eight-part miniseries with actress Kristen Bell playing the lead. So, with an already familiar story, The Woman In The House has been met with mixed reactions by audiences given the fact that the original came out less than a year ago. One may be a bit baffled at why this series even exists. Worry not, because this show has its own story too. While it's more or less like a parody of The Woman In The Window, it's not constantly making fun of already existing material. The Woman In The House is a fleshed-out version of the original and told as a satirical comedy with a sense of humour that ranges from subtle and silly to downright ridiculous.
Created by Rachel Ramras, Hugh Davidson and Larry Dorf, The Woman In The House centres on the harrowing life of Anna (Bell), a former painter coping with grief after a traumatic loss. Anna does the same thing every day. She sits alone with her glass of wine, stares out the window, and observes other lives go by day after day. But when a handsome neighbour and his adorable daughter move across the street, Anna starts to see light at the end of the tunnel. That is, until one night that she witnesses a gruesome murder, or did she?
The difference is quite obvious. While The Woman In The Window took inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock's paranoid thriller Rear Window (1954) which had a tense, druggy and ominous atmosphere, The Woman In The House feels lighter with a more mainstream approach. It's a satire comedy that is all about what goes on next door, gossiping and solving the mystery surrounding the murder of a neighbour -- almost as if you're watching a new season of Desperate Housewives.
The show starts off quite slow by introducing us to Anna, her background and the characters around her. However, the pace picks up when Anna thinks she has witnessed a murder and starts to investigate to find the truth. Of course with a psychological thriller like this, it begins with the question of whether Anna is crazy. We know that she has a drinking problem and she is on way too much medication which can cause hallucinations. Did she really witness the murder she claimed to have seen? So once the answer to that is established, the show transforms into a whodunit murder mystery in the second half. Surprisingly, I quite enjoyed the investigation aspect as the show adds tension throughout. The show twists and turns and becomes a fun puzzle.
Kristen Bell is known as a quick-witted actress with a sense of comedic timing, but she can also do drama and mystery, so she seems like a natural fit for this role. As a grieving ex-wife who's uncertain about her own mental health, it's fun to see this character develop as the show gets us to invest in Anna's very flawed investigation. The flaws make her character relatable to a degree. These misdirections and doubt all work to craft a surprisingly fun murder mystery. The supporting cast also works off Bell in good ways to bring more doubt on pretty much everything she says and sees. This includes Neil (Tom Riley), a single father across the street who Anna constantly troubles, or Detective Lane (Christina Anthony) who suspects Anna's strange behaviour and follows her every move. I think the show establishes itself well at keeping us guessing. We don't know if Anna's being gaslit by everyone else, which means that we're in the same boat because we see everything only from her point of view.
Kristen Bell as Anna in The Woman In The House.
Unfortunately, the comedy portion of the story, which I think is supposed to compliment the presumed satire, doesn't always work. Many jokes in the show feel forced and flat, and instead of laughing, I actually had to pause the show in disbelief. I think if they had gone for a straight mystery, it could be a great series because I think the show does a great job for that portion of the ride.
However, even if the confused satire and comedy doesn't quite work, the mystery portion of The Woman In The House is still worth diving into. This is a really quick binge with eight episodes that are each under 30 minutes. So, just like Anna's character, you can also pour yourself a glass of wine and watch this entire show in one weekend.
- The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window
- Starring Kristen Bell, Tom Riley, Samsara Yett
- Created by Rachel Ramras, Hugh Davidson and Larry Dorf
- Now streaming on Netflix