The title of “The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window” isn’t just a mouthful, it’s a spoiler—not on the level of “Death of a Salesman,” maybe, but a spoiler nonetheless. While it suggests any number of similarly plotted thrillers, including “The Girl on the Train,” “Gone Girl,” “Rear Window” and “The House at the End of the Street,” the eight-part Netflix series isn’t just a genre parody. It spoofs a specific film—namely “The Woman in the Window,” last year’s feature starring
that made such a lukewarm splash on Netflix. Whether Ms. Adams has discussed this new project with its star,
is unknown. But it’s an intriguing thing to ponder.
So is the fact that Netflix is mocking its own product, while offering reviewers the opportunity to provide spoilers on two shows at the same time.
The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window
Few will read “The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window” and assume that the contents should be taken entirely seriously. Which is too bad, in a way: Going in cold would probably render a viewer delightfully flummoxed. Nevertheless, the series will present two very different experiences to two different viewerships: the one that has seen “The Woman in the Window” and will recognize every plot point being mocked; and the one that hasn’t and will be consistently bewildered, but eventually tickled, by a dryly funny series that drives a carload of female-centric-thriller conceits over a cliff.
The hitch: The latter group will be looking for a payoff. But the payoff is the lampooning of the earlier show.
Ms. Bell is Anna (as was Ms. Adams), an artist who stopped painting after the death of her young daughter, Elizabeth (Appy Pratt), and the subsequent departure of her husband, Douglas (
). Anna’s imaginary conversations, hallucinations and dreams create an atmosphere of altered reality, all of which would be very easy to accept as genre convention if aspects of Anna’s at-home existence didn’t emerge as quasi-comic. She drinks goldfish-bowl-size glasses of red wine, all day, yet never gets drunk; her handyman, Buell (
), has been working on the same mailbox for years; Anna has an unending supply of vintage Corning Ware casserole dishes, which she keeps breaking because she either forgets to wear oven mitts or takes them outside in the rain and drops them—she suffers from ombrophobia, a fear of rain.
It was raining, we learn, the day her daughter died, under circumstances too horrible for anything but an absurdist comedy: On Take Your Daughter to Work Day, Elizabeth accompanied her father—a forensic psychiatrist for the FBI who specializes in serial killers—to visit a prison inmate nicknamed Massacre Mike. Dad left the room for a moment; the rest is history, if not quite hysteria. At this point, the audience will likely divide along the lines of what qualifies as dark comedy, and what qualifies as demented. But if you accept early on that “The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window” is trying to go over the top, you’ll likely go along.
The cast is uniformly good, and smart, Ms. Bell especially: She plays Anna dizzily deadpan, as if she were portraying the heroine in a story by
(This one was created by
is the director.) She doesn’t notice, or care about, the nutty goings-on, or that she may be falling apart. Her friends do—
is her usual terrific self as Sloane, Anna’s art dealer, who tries to get her back on the painting track and off the pharmaceuticals and Merlot;
is the caustic neighbor, Carol, who always seems to be there just when Anna takes a misstep—showing up at her daughter’s old school in pajamas and robe, for instance. It’s not till the good-looking widower Neil (
) moves in across the street with his daughter, Emma (the charming
Yett), that Anna perks up. But everyone thinks she’s simply lost her mind after she claims to have seen Neil’s girlfriend, Lisa (
), murdered, while she was peering into Neil’s living-room window.
Why was she peering into Neil’s living-room window? That’s what lonely, traumatized, hard-drinking, pill-popping, therapist-deceiving, Corning Ware-destroying women do in this kind of thing. “The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window” just finds the fun in popping genre balloons.
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Appeared in the January 26, 2022, print edition as ‘A Mocking Mouthful on Netflix.’