Friday, January 28, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window' - Anna Keeps Forgetting Things in 'Episode 1'

Netflix's The Woman in the House Across Across the Street From the Girl in the Window - Episode 1.01 "Episode 1"

Between broken dishes and heartbreaking visions, Anna drowns her sorrows in wine and stares out her window - until a handsome dad gets her attention.

"Episode 1" was written by Rachel Ramras, Hugh Davidson & Larry Dorf and directed by Michael Lehmann

Anna cooks a chicken casserole. She prepares it as a dish she has made many times before. And then, she reaches into the oven with her bare hands. She drops the dish because it understandably burns her. She wonders how she forgot to take the proper and sensible safety precautions. Those opening minutes set off a trend that plays out tepidly across this premiere. This first episode is only 29 minutes. And yet, it agonizingly feels much longer than that. It absolutely plays as satire of a tortured woman saddled with a tragic backstory being pulled into some incredible story that has become a trope in the industry. But nothing happens with much specificity here. Anna loves wine. She forgets things. She fears the rain. She has vivid hallucinations. She is basically an unreliable narrator. The audience should inherently question everything from her perspective. It can't be trusted. Any action could just be a trick designed to fool the audience. That's exactly what happens when Anna believes Neil has come across the street to have sex with her. It's a vivid experience in her mind. It's not real. The action confirms that too. But the narrative wishes to be ambiguous at other points. Anna fears that there is an intruder in her house while she is in the bathtub. She doesn't come across anything. The direction suggests something going on in the attic. When Anna finally does make her way up there, she is attacked by a bird that leaves just as quickly as it arrived. That scares her back down to the comfort of her routine of drinking alcohol and watching people by her window. The audience is further teased that a monster may actually be lurking in the forgotten darkness of the attic. But again, these are all vague inferences. None of them build a sustainable character or narrative. It's all a ploy on top of a ploy. Anna makes herself the center of the story. She thrusts importance onto herself. As a result, she frequently forgets to do trivial things around the house. It's a pattern for her. It's a distraction that exists beyond her terror when it is raining. All of this may connect in some meaningful way to the death of her daughter. She hasn't been able to move on from that moment since it happened three years ago. Neil moving in across the street awakens something new in her. Something that is bound to send her investigating her world further than she has in awhile. But it's all displayed in such a dour, meandering way. Nothing comes across with any sense of propulsive momentum. It's simply Anna being unable to put in the bare minimum and still being exhausted when she gets to the chair with a book and wine. An interesting character could be found in that construct. In fact, a gifted actress such as Kristen Bell should be able to offer a rewarding quality that uplifts the material. That is nowhere to be found here. It's all directing and musical cues meant to hint at something mysterious going on in this environment. That is suppose to drag the audience along. We are left to investigate. In reality though, nothing exists as its own unique idea. If the show is meant to operate as satire, it needs to be more ridiculous and insane right out of the gate. In its current form, it's all very maudlin and serious. Humor is certainly being attempted by people who understand the tropes that fuel so many tragic figures in the entertainment medium. Nothing is being reinvented or investigated in a deeply meaningful way. It's simply acknowledging things in a matter-of-fact manner. That leaves the twists filling empty as well. The life has been sucked out of this world before it's even able to aspire for anything rich and complex. That's impressive actually. It takes things truly going off the rails immediately to offer nothing of meaning or intrigue. That should simply leave the audience disappointed for the actors who signed on to the show and the executives who ordered it in the first place. Nothing works. Move on to the next show that has a stronger command over its intentions and ambitions. Plenty of options exist on Netflix for example.