Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Netflix’s new series The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is… weird. The title makes it obvious that it’s meant as a parody of films like The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and The Woman in the Window, and its star, an all-grown-up Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) will pull viewers in. But it’s not quite funny enough, often enough, to be a comedy, and the plotline (and the casting, and the set design, and the costumes…) is drawn beat-by-beat from The Woman in the Window—so if you’ve seen that, you’ll know exactly what happens. But it’s still better in almost every way than its inspirations, so if you’re dithering about what ludicrous suburban crime drama to watch, this is the one.
Bell stars as Anna, a painter still reeling from the tragic loss of her family, who spends her days in a drunken and medicated stupor watching the neighbors and making casseroles. When a perfect family moves in across the street—a handsome father and his darling little girl—it looks like things might finally turn around for Anna. But it’s all derailed when the girlfriend shows up, and spirals out of control still further when an intoxicated Anna witnesses the girlfriend’s murder. Yup, from her window, in a moment-by-moment recreation of the very scene from The Woman in the Window (the writers for that movie really should get royalties for this series).
Has Anna really witnessed a murder? Or was she hallucinating thanks to the drugs and alcohol? Or is something else altogether going on? When you get past the too-close-for-comfort similarities to The Woman in the Window, you’ll be pulled in by Bell’s always fun–but seriously committed to the drama–performance, a strong and enjoyable supporting cast, and the occasional flashes of truly absurd humor. They’re too few and far between, but part of the fun is seeing how the series will pull this off. It would probably seem even better without having seen the source material first—but it’s unlikely that viewers who haven’t will tune in.
Still, there’s enough here to make the eight very short episodes—just 25 minutes each—worth the view. Like the banter between Anna and her friend–well-written, believable dialogue tucked in here and there. Making it stand apart from its source material could have provided an even better ride, but a very long epilogue in Episode 8 more than hints at a potential The Lady Vanishes-inspired second season.
It’s probably the best of the “drunk, unreliable female narrator” tales in the ever-growing trope. Nothing like the Scary Movie horror spoof series, neither is it a genuine drama. And yet it may be Kristen Bell’s best performance since Veronica Mars. The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is streaming now on Netflix.