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**Warning: Spoilers for both book and movie!**
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (2018)
The Woman in the Window directed by Joe Wright (2021)
Before we get into the book and movie, I wanted to talk about the author A.J. Finn. His real name is Dan Mallory and a year after the book was released, there was an article written in the New Yorker exposing lies he has told in order to get more attention and sympathy. He claimed to have a doctorate from Oxford-which is a lie. He said he had a brain tumor-also not true. He also talked about his mom dying from cancer, his brother committing suicide and the death of his dad-all of whom are still alive and well.
Needless to say, this brough a lot of negative attention to Mallory. He was supposed to release his second book in January of 2020, but it still has not come out. (And Covid can’t be blamed, because it was supposed to be released before the whole Covid stuff even happened).
Funny enough, Netflix has announced it will be turning the New Yorker piece into a TV show, starring Jake Gyllenhaal has Mallory. I would think Mallory had to give permission, and receive some sort of compensation, so in some ways this has boosted his fame. Just not in the way he may have wanted.
Anna Fox becomes agoraphobic after being in a car accident that left her, her husband, and their daughter stuck in the snow, in the middle of nowhere for two nights and a day with no cell reception. Her husband and daughter died, however, when the story begins, we are led to believe they are still alive, and she talks to them.
To deal with her depression and panic attacks, she is on a number of medications and has become an alcoholic and drinks a lot while on these pills and isn’t keeping track of dosing.
She spends a lot of time watching the neighbors and ends up meeting a new neighbor that just moved in named Jane Russell. She also meets their son Ethan, who is a very kind and tender 17 year old. Then one night she sees Jane get stabbed while in the house but doesn’t see who did the stabbing. She calls 911, but the cops think she is hallucinating and delusional due to all the drugs and alcohol in her system. The Russell’s come over and bring Jane to prove nothing is wrong, however, the Jane they have come over is not the Jane she had met. Ethan follows his dad’s lead, and tells Anna that she never met Jane before, but Anna can tell he is lying. Oh, by the way, before all this she had been a child psychologist.
Anna has a tenant named David living in the basement and starts to suspect him of having something to do with all this. Someone also sent her a picture of her while she was sleeping, and she thinks David may have had something to do with it. She ends up calling the detectives a second time, and once again the Russell’s come over. They tell her once again that she is imagining things. The detective breaks the news that her family isn’t even alive (this whole time she has just been saying that she and her husband are separated, and her daughter is with him). They also tell her she must have imagined this other Jane and caused drama because she is always watching old thrillers and it got in her head.
She is convinced, but then later across a picture she took when Jane was at her house, and Jane’s reflection is in the window-proving she didn’t make her up!
She calls Ethan and gets him to come over and shows him the picture. He opens up to her that that woman is named Katie and is his birth mother. She found them and wanted to be in Ethan’s life again. Long story short, the real Jane stabbed Katie, because she doesn’t want anyone taking Ethan away from her. Anna says we have to tell the police, but Ethan convinces her to let him go back home first and tell his parents and get them to give themselves up.
Time goes by, and Ethan texts her saying they are headed to the police. Then she wakes up during the night to see Ethan there standing by her bed.
Turns out Ethan is a psychopath, and he is the one that stabbed Katie. They get in a fight, and she ends up killing him. The cops come over and the dad, Alistair confesses everything. He didn’t admit to what happened because he was trying to protect Ethan. The real Jane wasn’t even aware of what happened because she had been out of town at the time.
At the end of the book, we flash forward 6 weeks and Anna is getting the courage to once again go outside and reclaim her life.
Thoughts on book
This book isn’t crazy long-455 pages-but at least one third of it could have been taken out. It just went on and on. There isn’t even any drama till almost halfway through. Finn says he likes old movies because they take their time with the story and setting things up, and I guess that was his intention here. Because he certainly took his time.
I suspected Ethan wasn’t as good as he appeared and kept waiting for something to happen with him. It just seemed too cliché that the angry and controlling father was behind it all. The parts with her tenant David just seemed like a waste. I never suspected he was actually part of the drama and figured he was a red herring.
I also suspected that her family was actually dead, so when the ‘big’ reveal happened where we found out they had died, wasn’t too exciting.
The last quarter of so should be where the reader is on the edge of their seat, but even the ‘suspenseful’ moments seemed to drag by.
I did like all the movie references this book had. If you are a fan of old movies, specifically Alfred Hitchcock, you will like how often those movies are included here in one way or another. The movies she watches sometimes clue us, and her, into what is actually going on with the Russell’s. Funny enough, the movie Rear Window is only mentioned once, and it’s brief. This premise is obviously very similar-someone who can’t leave their house seeing their neighbor commit a crime.
In 2016 is when the book was announced and the bidding war for the rights began. The movie was supposed to be released in 2019, just one year after the book came out. After the movie was tentatively finished, they showed it to test audiences, who reported back that it left them confused. The release date was pushed from 2019 to 2020 so they could do reshoots to help the end make more sense. The May 2020 release obviously didn’t happen because it was the midst of the Covid pandemic and theaters weren’t open. It was then sold to Netflix, who released it this past Friday, May 14, 2021. Needless to say, this story has had quite the journey to reach audiences.
It is directed by Joe Wright, who prior to this really only did dramas such as Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, and The Darkest Hour.
Amy Adams is Anna Fox, and she gives a strong performance. I think she was well cast and does the best she can with what she’s given.
Gary Oldman is an amazing actor. Here he plays Alistair and gives an incredibly forgettable performance. If this was the first thing, I saw him in, after the movie was done, I never would have thought of him again. His acting is very surface level and cliché. Ironic, considering Joe Wright directed him in his Academy Award winning role in The Darkest Hour.
Jennifer Jason Leigh and Julianne Moore play to two Jane’s. Moore is the ‘Katie’ Jane and is well cast. She is only in about ten minutes of the movie, but overall, she gives a believable performance. Leigh is a fantastic actress, which begs the question, why was she cast in the role of Jane?? She literally has like one line she says in the whole thing. What a waste! Just cast some nobody why don’t you.
Fred Hechinger is Ethan. I actually hadn’t seen him in anything before this. He doesn’t act the way Ethan is described as being, when we think he is just an innocent kid. Like he was too socially awkward or something. Though when he shows his true self, I was a bit more impressed with him.
Anthony Mackie is in about ten minutes of this movie, but despite his short screen time, he is solid in this. You will of course recognize him as Papa Doc in 8 Mile. I’m kidding of course, people forget or don’t even realize he was in 8 Mile. He became well known thanks to being in Marvel movies *eye roll*
Scenes that were left out
This movie is only one hour and forty minutes, and as I said, there is a at least a third of the book that could be cut, if not more. They could have totally kept all the important moments from the book, not even have to change much, and the movie would still only have been two hours or so! However, there are a number of things they left out, that I wish had been kept in.
For starters, Anna has started a site called The Agora which is a helpful website for agoraphobes where they can chat with other people and get help. A user Anna has known, tells her about a new user who needs some help. Her username is GrandmaLizzie and is an older woman in Montana. Her husband died about a month prior, and ever since then hasn’t been able to get herself to leave the house. She and Anna start to have a close relationship and Anna confides in her. I suspected something was up with GrandmaLizzie, and in the end we find out it is actually Ethan.
There is also a scene where Anna sees the Jane replacement leave the house and Anna goes and follows her. This is of course a big deal, since she is doesn’t like going outside. She follows her to a coffee shop and confronts her. This would have been a nice addition to the movie because it would have given Leigh more screen time. Though, ultimately, I suppose this scene doesn’t really move the story forward, because no new information is revealed in this encounter.
There is also a scene where Ethan comes over and is struggling. Anna gives him a key to the basement (David has moved out at this point) and tells him if he ever needs to get away from them, he can come stay there. Later that night, Anna hears someone in her kitchen and then hears a man call out, “come downstairs Dr. Fox!” It is Alistair, and he is drunk. He is upset that she gave Ethan a key and is returning it while also threatening her to stay away from his family. We assume he wants to protect Ethan from Anna, but by the end we realize he was protecting Anna from Ethan.
The movie does have a scene where Ethan is talking to Anna, that Alistair comes in and smacks Ethan, then tells Anna to stay away from their family. This scene lacked the thrill of Alistair showing up during the night. In the book he also is never shown hitting Ethan.
The movie shows the cat Punch limping near the end of the movie. In the book, when Ethan comes over and reveals everything (though he’s lying in part) when he first comes in her asks how is Punches paw. Anna is distracted and is just like, he’s fine. Later, Ethan goes to pick Punch up, and Punch slinks away from him, whereas before he was fine with him.
That night, when Anna is in bed, she is reminded that he asked about Punches paw, when he had never even seen Punch limp, so how could he have known to ask? Plus, the fact that the cat no longer liked him. She realizes something isn’t right, and that’s when she wakes up to see Ethan there. This was one of the more exciting parts of the book and I wish it had been kept in. He tells Anna he hurt Punch because while he was sneaking around her house at night the cat kept following him and he is allergic and didn’t want to sneeze.
After the accident, Anna has a lot of injuries she needs to recover from and has a physical therapist visit her house. After ten months, Anna is doing much better, but the PT named Bina still comes by and they have a friendship. She doesn’t play a key role, just a friend of Anna’s. Nonetheless, I wish she would have been included.
David is kind of a useless character in the book, the movie makes him a slightly bigger role. In the book she is looking for a handyman to rent her basement, and she will give discounted rent in return for his help around the house. Whereas David in the movie is in a band, and fixes stuff on the side. The book he was very private and didn’t talk much and was serious. The movie has him be more friendly. When he finds her in the basement, the movie David goes berserk, and it seems so out of character. In the book, he is upset, but does eventually calm down.
In the book, he later goes to apologize to her and confides that he has done time and this has made him very particular about his private space. They then end up drinking wine together and have sex which seems out of nowhere really.
In the movie he doesn’t really apologize. He also doesn’t tell her about his prison time, it is something she discovers when she is looking around his place.
In the end, David comes by to get his stuff, and she show’s him the picture with Jane’s reflection. He says that isn’t Jane, it’s a woman named Katie. He, rather than Ethan, is the one that tells her that she is Ethan’s birth mom. He says she stayed the night once but was a mess and David didn’t have her over again. In the book, she spent four nights with David, and didn’t tell him anything personal about her connection with the Russell’s.
In the movie, David ends up being killed by Ethan. In the book, by the end, David has been moved out for a week-ish and makes no more appearances.
In the book, after the confrontation where they tell her she imagined this other Jane, and that her family is dead, she cuts off communication from people. She tells her therapist not to come by, and also dismisses Bina. She logs on to the Agora and tells GrandmaLizzie the truth about her family and also basically says goodbye. It seems like she is going to end her life, however she doesn’t begin to take action on anything like that.
In the movie, she records a suicide note/video. Soon after though is when she sees the picture with Jane’s reflection and doesn’t go through with it. However, when Ethan makes his presence known, he tells her to go through with it, threatening her with a knife. This is when the whole fight type scene takes place. In the movie, this scene is way too over the top and doesn’t fit with the feel of the movie. It becomes horror-esque, with her slipping in David’s blood, and then Ethan getting her face with the hand rake thing people use for gardening.
In the book, when Ethan is telling her about everything, he says how he never knew his dad and the last time he saw Katie, she still wouldn’t tell him who he was. When they are fighting on the roof, she says that Katie had told her about his dad. This of course gets Ethan’s attention, and he loosens his grip so that she can tell him. She makes some stuff up, stalling for time, basically just describing Ed, her husband. Then they approach the skylight, and she pushes him through. The movie doesn’t have the drama about his dad, because the made Alistair his birth dad. In both, Katie was on drugs and in bad shape, which is why she gave him up for adoption in the book. In the movie there is no talking while on the roof, just fighting and eventually she makes him fall through the skylight.
In the book, we fast-forward six weeks. The cops came to the scene, and when they approach the Russell’s Alistair breaks down and tells them everything. Whereas in the movie, Jane is who they say confesses about everything and Alistair refuses to talk. In both, we see Anna starting to move on, and in the book, she is beginning to overcome her agoraphobia. In the movie, it goes like 9 months into the future, and Anna seems all healed and is selling her house.
In the book, Anna gets in contact with Alistair’s former assistant to try and get a description of Jane. She is told she has dark hair and fair skin, but this is no help because both Jane’s have dark hair and fair skin. She is also told that the reasons for Alistair’s transfer is all very hush hush and no one knows the details.
She later hears that the transfer was due to some drama with Alistair and his female boss. Anna of course assumes Alistair was having an affair with the woman.
When Ethan is there at the end, telling her everything, we find out he has a thing for older woman. He had taken a liking to Alistair’s boss, and would go to her house at night. She caught him, and Alistair and his family were transferred.
In the movie, they have Ethan kill the former boss. But in the book, Katie is actually the only person Ethan ever kills, though he of course tries killing Anna.
In the book, Anna didn’t like windows or doors being open, but was totally fine with interacting with people and having them in her house. The movie makes Anna seem scared of interacting with others, and doesn’t like people coming in her home.
The book also goes more into the car crash. For one, they reached the hotel, and while there Ed says he can’t do this, and they need to tell Olivia they are divorcing. They tell her and she gets very upset, so they decide to leave. On the drive home, the man she was having an affair with calls, like the movie shows, and they fight over the phone and crash. In the book she was having an affair with a fellow therapist who she shares a practice with.
In the book, when they crash, Ed and Olivia are still alive. She drags them out of the car and is even able to get Olivia to eat and drink some. Whereas Ed is in worse shape. During these parts, she talks about the huge sky looming over head as the snow continues to fall. The way it’s described helps us understand why being out in the open is so difficult and scary for Anna. Eventually they are saved but by that time Ed and Olivia have passed.
In the book Katie visits Anna’s house twice. Once after helping her when the kids were egging the house. Then the next day, Anna is spying on them and Katie sees. Anna is very embarrassing, but then Katie comes over and they end up drinking wine, playing chess and bonding.
Book or movie?
I thought the pacing of the movie was very off and a lot of scenes felt rushed. I wonder if I would have thought that had I never read the book though. Books always go in more detail, so when I go to watch the movie, is it just inevitable that I would think it seems rushed?
After finished the book, I had a lot of complaints. Then I watched the movie and decided maybe the book wasn’t so bad after all. Compared its movie counterpart at least! Though I wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone, I would not recommend the movie even more so! I am curious what the first cut was like, the one that audiences said was confusing. Maybe it would have been better than this version? But who knows.
The book has quotes from different authors praising it, but it seems phony to me. The publishing company probably just reached out to some people and were like they can we stick you name on this? And they said yeah, then the company came up with fake reviews. The Stephen King review says something about it being a totally original story. Which it certainly isn’t totally original.
Funny enough, the most interesting thing about this, is what was discovered about the author A.J. Finn/Dan Mallory and I for one, am very excited for the show about him. I’m sure it’ll be better than his own book and movie! And if you want to watch a thriller with a housebound protagonist, watch the Alfred Hitchcock classic Rear Window!