Netflix wants us to be immersed in the winter doldrums because that is exactly where we are. What better time to entice us with a never-ending supply of limited series that mimic something we have already seen?
The algorithm of the streaming service is aware that I enjoy murder mysteries and tales of ladies on the verge of nervous breakdowns. Because I (sadly) watched Netflix’s 2021 adaptation of The Woman in the Window, I was given this eight-episode cannibalistic spoof of its own film. Yes, I watched that as well.
Anna (Kristen Bell) resides in an affluent suburb and prepares casseroles in her HGTV-ready kitchen for a nonexistent family. Her husband and daughter were taken from her by an incomprehensible and improbable catastrophe. She now spends her days searching for individuals to nurture and her nights pouring massive glasses of red wine.
Anna, while imbibing said wine, observes the residence of her hunky new neighbor (Tom Riley) and his motherless daughter across the street (Samsara Leela Yett). One fateful evening, she witnesses in horror a terrible murder.
Given Anna’s proclivity to hallucinate, we cannot be certain that she saw a murder or that she did not wield the knife. After the police reject her complaint for lack of a body, she decides to investigate the crime herself.
Will You Like It?
The most clever aspect of “The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window” is the title. If you are familiar with the enormously popular literary genre of domestic thrillers (The Girl on the Train, The Woman in Cabin 10, Gone Girl, The Good Girl, The It Girl, etc.), you will immediately know what to anticipate. It could be an algorithm-generated title.
Formulaic storylines are ideal for parody, and the publishing industry has over the years refined a formula for suspense books about unhinged suburban white women with magnificent kitchens. Someone needed to ridicule this formula, and someone has now attempted to do so.
Despite Michael Lehmann’s (Heathers) presence in the director’s chair, “The Woman in the House…” never reaches the heights of cruel satire. The show never establishes a consistent or effective tone, despite the fact that its episodes are brief and Bell is a good comedic actress.
There are multiple legitimate approaches to genre parody. You can go for a wide approach, putting every genre cliche into a hopper to see what type of lunacy emerges, à la Airplane! Or, you can employ a more subtle approach (think Scream), constructing a narrative that appeals to genre enthusiasts while also urging people to think critically about what they are experiencing.
The creators of “The Woman in the House…” appears to be in over their heads. Rather than parodying a wide variety of tropes and characters, they adhere closely to the plot of The Woman in the Window, which was an apparent (but not humorous) spoof of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. In addition to a missing family, a wine habit, and odd noises in her home, Anna has a phobia that confines her to her home, just like the character played by Amy Adams, also named Anna.
It’s enough to make viewers feel like they’re stuck in a hall of mirrors, which may be the aim. But serious satire — an actual analysis of why this genre continues to recur — never materializes.
Are we supposed to cheer for Anna as she rediscovers her purpose and meets up with a mysterious stranger (Benjamin Levy Aguilar) in a moment that borders on being rated R? Or are we just supposed to giggle when the couple’s sensual acrobatics disturb Anna’s enormous collection of wine corks?
Observe Anna’s daughter’s tombstone for one) and a few jokes that successfully venture into the realm of the surreal. Cameron Britton is hilariously deadpan as Anna’s evil handyman. The solution to the puzzle is appropriately absurd but far too predictable.
“The Woman in the House…” is so derivative of The Woman in the Window that it fails as both a parody and a thriller, despite its best efforts. Fortunately for streaming providers, viewers suffering from cabin fever are as desperate for a diversion as poor Anna. Let’s take it easy on the red wine, shall we?
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