When the trailer for Netflix’s The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in The Window dropped almost two months ago, when very little was known about it, you could have been forgiven for mistaking it for a show full of darkly comic intrigue.
All the clues pointed to it being a send up of the no-one-believes-me, suburban-mom-turned pill-popping-alcoholic psychological thriller. Four episodes in, however, it’s still unclear whether this is actually meant to be a parody of The Woman in the Window, The Girl on the Train and the like. That’s because the show itself doesn’t seem to know what it’s trying to be.
In a different context, the main character, Anna (Kristen Bell), with her dead-pan sarcasm and overactive imagination, could actually function as a pastiche of the time-honoured “woman on the verge” trope. Ironically, the show is so concerned with trying to be something that it ends up being nothing; it’s neither clever nor particularly captivating.
Though she’s ultimately unable to carry the show by herself, Bell puts in a commendable shift in the lead role, practically mocking herself by slipping into a doolally hausfrau version of Veronica Mars. Anna’s moments of reflection, narrated in a style as convoluted as the title, are one of the most enjoyable aspects of the show. This is when she tries to convince herself – and the audience – of depth, both emotionally and intellectually:
“To get to the bottom of something, sometimes you have to remind yourself that if you don’t risk anything, you risk everything. And the biggest risk you can take is to risk nothing. And if you risk nothing, what you’re really doing is risking not getting to the bottom of something. And if you don’t get to the bottom of something, you risk everything.”
While these little gems are meant to make us giggle and think back to various popular twist-ending thrillers of recent years, what they really do is act as a verbal representation of this show’s format: confused and stuck in a boring loop it can’t quite get out of.
Even the real comic matters of the show – the portrayal of her alcoholism through gigantically rimmed wine glasses, the Groundhog Day-style mailbox situation, and Anna’s encounters with bitchy neighbours – don’t really get a rise enough to laugh out loud.
So by the time we learn that her daughter was murdered and eaten by a cannibal on Take Your Daughter to Work Day, all we can do is meet this absurd storyline with Bell’s character’s only strength: a poker face. Which is a shame given that this writer’s primary motive for watching this show was to see Bell in a different kind of role. Which it is. But then, is it? The indecisiveness of this muddled show has a way of rubbing off on you.
Published 31 Jan 2022
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