Mighty Neighborly

The Woman in the Window

by George Wolf

The Woman in the Window is a testament to the power of “all in.”

Like if you’re spying on your neighbors, get a zoom lens, take pictures! And if you’re modernizing Hitchcock, embrace that shit from the opening minutes and don’t f-ing look back.

For director Joe Wright and screenwriter Tracy Letts, that’s the play as they adapt A.J. Finn’s bestselling novel. And it’s a smart one.

Psychologist Anna Fox (Amy Adams, fantastic) has a shrink of her own these days (Letts), and plenty of prescriptions. Suffering from crippling agoraphobia, Anna will not leave her spacious Manhattan townhouse. She’s got her cat Punch and her downstairs tenant David (Wyatt Russell), but outside of occasional conversations with her ex-husband (Anthony Mackie), Anna spends most of her time watching her neighbors and old movies.

Then the Russells move in across the street.

Jane (Julianne Moore) comes over for an enjoyable visit, has some wine and admits that Alistair (Gary Oldman) can be angry and controlling. A later conversation with the teenaged Ethan Russell (Fred Hechinger) seconds that.

So when Anna sees Jane stabbed in her apartment, she’s sure Alistair is to blame. But with detectives (Brian Tyree Henry, Jeanine Serralles) looking on, a different Jane Russell (Jennifer Jason Leigh) appears, swearing that she’s never even met Anna before tonight.

For the entire first hour, Wright (Atonement, Darkest Hour, Hanna), Letts (Pulitzer winner for writing August: Osage County) and this splendid ensemble put the hammer down on a delicious mystery ride. Putting stairwells, doors, railings and more in forced perspective, Wright intensifies our relation to Ann’s small world while Letts’s crackling script draws us into the mystery and Danny Elfman’s staccato score hammers it home.

Is any of Anna’s story even real, or is it her meds and fragile psyche talking? This question allows the direct homages to classics like Rear Window and Vertigo to be filtered through a movie-loving unreliable narrator, becoming a wonderfully organic device that feeds this intoxicating noir pot-boiler.

As events escalate and Anna’s plight becomes more overtly terrifying, the novel’s pulpy seams begin to show, and the film stumbles a bit in transition. But Adams is strong enough to keep us rooted firmly in Anna’s camp, long enough for the darker side of Hitchcock to wrestle control.

Taking a story like this from page to screen successfully requires a strong, confident vision and a committed, talented cast. The Woman in the Window is overflowing with riches on both counts, landing as immensely satisfying fun.

Goon Baby Goon

Goon: Last of the Enforcers

by George Wolf

Seven years ago, we got three successive blasts of fresh air released in roughly 18 months: Kick-Ass, Machete and Goon. Sequels for the first two quickly followed, each doomed by an approach that seemed oblivious to all that made their origin stories so appealing.

It’s taken quite a bit longer, but Goon: Last of the Enforcers is here to complete the unfortunate trifecta.

Lovable hockey goon/overall simpleton Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) is touched to be named captain of his Halifax Highlanders squad, but when he’s beaten to a bloody mess by new goon on the block Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell), Doug faces some tough decisions.

His girl Eva (Alison Pill) is pregnant and really doesn’t want him fighting anymore, so Doug takes a sad gig handling “insurance documents.” But with his team in disarray and a familiar itch to scratch, Doug starts training with old foe Ross Rhea (Liev Schrieber) for a possible return to the ice.

Familiar sports movie cliches follow, but that’s not what makes this new Goon so disappointing. The problems come from forgetting to give us any authentic reasons to care about Doug, or any attempts at humor that rise above sophomoric.

Jay Baruchel returns as co-star/co-writer, and takes the big chair for his debut as a feature director. His vision falls well short of the bawdy bulls-eye the first film delivered, sorely missing the script input from original co-writer Evan Goldberg (Pineapple Express, This Is the End, Sausage Party, Superbad). Goldberg’s smart brand of humor is just what this film needs more of, as it relies instead on silly gags aiming for the lowest hanging fruit.

Also gone is the goon so easy to love. Doug is much too broadly drawn this time, reduced from a big-hearted brute we rooted for to a village idiot merely there to laugh at, not laugh with.

Goon was an underdog winner. Last of the Enforcers earns the penalty box.