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Netflix's The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window is a comedy and mystery that is neither comedic nor mysterious

  • "Unfortunately, the new Netflix series The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window drops one of its most successful jokes in its title — and doesn’t have much to recommend it as a whodunit, either," says Daniel D'Addario. "A parody of book-club thrillers like The Girl on the Train and The Woman in the Window, this series stars Kristen Bell as a grieving mother who has descended into substance abuse and who becomes obsessed with a crime she believes she’s seen. The tricky thing about this plot is that it’s effectively indistinguishable from what might be featured in one of the books or movies the show’s lampooning, and so needs to be jazzed up either with great gags or sharp execution to keep us watching. Neither is true. This series’ title and certain early moments — as when Bell drops the cork from her wine bottle into a massive pile of them — suggest that this series will have a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker level of relentless comic ingenuity. Instead, though, The Woman in the House… often defaults to a fairly straightforward spin on the genre it’s supposedly mocking, with occasional, flaccid sight gags. (In fairness, there’s a line toward the series’ end that made me laugh out loud… but only after several episodes’ worth of bland, dry material.)"

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    • The Woman in the House has the unfortunate timing of being third in a trend: "Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building was a treat because of how successful it was with both genre elements, delivering laughs and, ultimately, a whodunit that kept viewers guessing," says Daniel Fienberg. "Apple TV+’s upcoming The Afterparty doesn’t succeed quite as well with its unfolding puzzle, but its central structural twist — each episode unfolds in a different style — is clever enough to mostly cover for my lack of investment in suspects and motivations. Netflix’s The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window — henceforth to be referred to as The Woman or Woman — has the bad fortune of being the third in a trend and the worse fortune of being generally bad, but I’m a generous critic and I’ll give it the credit it deserves: The opening minutes of the eighth and final Woman episode are actually hilarious and answer the show’s vague questions far better than warranted by the previous seven episodes. The rest of the finale isn’t as good, but there’s an amusing cameo in the closing minutes that sets up a second season I have no interest in watching, because let’s be clear: Other than the start of the finale, Woman is never mysterious in the slightest and only fitfully funny."
    • The Woman in the House has trouble justifying itself: "What’s both most striking and most frustrating about Netflix’s The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is that the series largely plays it straight," says Will Ashton. "A sendup of American psychological thrillers like The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and The Woman in the Window, it features the sort of winking title that sets the bar very high on the absurdity scale. But director Michael Lehmann and series creators Rachel Ramras, Hugh Davidson, and Larry Dorf settle for a less-than-biting buffoonery to highlight what they see as the nonsensicality of these psychological thrillers. The end result is a self-aware satire that only moderately lampoons films like David Fincher’s Gone Girl, which are often knowingly absurdist in their own right. While poking fun at the sort of outlandish tropes and overzealous twists that inspire no shortage of giddy guffaws, The Woman in the House can, oddly, be so tepid and modest in its ambitions, at least compared to the sensationalized stories that it’s trying to ridicule, that the series has a hard time justifying itself over the course of its eight half-hour episodes."
    • The Woman in the House is a hilarious sendup of movies like The Woman in the Window: "It’s ludicrous," says Richard Roeper. "It’s WAY over the top. It’s cheerfully offensive. And it’s an absolute hoot, thanks to the spot-on performance from Kristen Bell, the insightful scripts from writers who clearly know the genre and the deft directing work by the veteran Michael Lehmann, best known for Heathers. Bell plays it absolutely straight and down the middle, never winking at us throughout the increasingly insane proceedings, and in the process delivers one of the most impressive performances of her career as Anna, the lead character we always get in this type of juicy pulp nonsense."
    • The Woman in the House is a botched experiment: "The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window is all over the place," says Jen Chaney, "sometimes blatantly ridiculous and sometimes just serious enough to convince you that it’s legitimately attempting to serve wine-mom-murder-mystery content to an audience thirsty for scripted crime, sex, and Malbec who will relate on some level to Anna’s plight, but despite Bell’s best efforts to manage its bifurcated tone, The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window is mostly a botched experiment, with the exception of the part near the end of the eighth and final episode involving a spectacular cameo appearance that signals there could be a second season ahead for this series, which I am not sure is a good idea unless the actor who made the cameo appearance remains involved..."
    • There’s a delicate art to the straight-faced parody: "Go too broad, and you risk losing track of your subject," says Clint Worthington. "Too subtle, and the jokes barely register. Woman in the House opts for the latter approach, essentially rendering a po-faced recreation of the movies it’s lampooning, but dialing up the absurdity by 5%. In this way, it’s not too dissimilar to sibling Will Ferrell project The Spoils of Babylon, which replicated the rhythms of the TV event miniseries of the ‘70s and ‘80s with a few bits of absurdism sprinkled here and there. Woman in the House, on the other hand, doesn’t land quite the same balance, and it suffers as a result."
    • The Woman in the House is as exhausting as its title: "When it comes to jokes, The Woman in the House either flogs them to death or misses them completely," says Kristen Baldwin, adding: "Once the table is set, though, this meal drags on forever. The Woman in the House takes its sweet time with everything, stretching maybe 90 minutes' worth of mystery over eight half-hour episodes. In lieu of story developments, we're treated to detours and diversions, protracted set ups, and sporadically lethargic pacing. Anna's early infatuation with Neil takes her down an Instagram rabbit hole as she looks for dirt on his girlfriend, Lisa (Shelley Hennig), but her amateur sleuthing eventually leads her to question whether Neil is the nice guy he seems to be. The writers are especially fond of elongating their comedy — perhaps with the hope that if they draw their jokes out long enough, they'll go from funny to not funny back to funny again. It worked brilliantly for The Simpsons and Sideshow Bob, but here it just adds another layer of drag to an already sluggish endeavor."
    • The Woman in the House is a spoof that gets lost in its influences: "At first, The Woman in the House is firmly parody, with Inside Amy Schumer-sized glasses of wine and deliberately melodramatic narration like 'There are so many layers to a casserole, just like there are so many layers to a person,'" says Proma Khosla. "Sight gags and cheeky production details abound, including a bowl full of wine corks, stacks of self-help books (You too can be an Artist, You also Can be an Artist, Anyone can be an Artist), and the changing inscription on a loved one's grave. It is no surprise that the show eventually becomes tangled in its own purpose. A couple of episodes in, the genre spoofing gives way to an actual murder mystery, full of twists and turns that sometimes surprise, sometimes satisfy, and sometimes baffle. (The sex montage will arrive when you least expect it.) Just as Anna struggles to distinguish her hallucinations from reality, viewers will have to step back and question whether they’re watching a cheeky send-up or a disorienting attempt at the real thing. By the final episodes, The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window is firmly its own wine woman murder mystery. The show becomes more at home in the category it’s mocking, falling short of the kind of incisive satire it aims to be. (Miss you always, American Vandal.) Bell does her best as story and style warp around her. So, you can’t help wondering what she would do with stronger material."
    • It’s never entirely clear whether this is meant to be perceived as an out-and-out spoof of the women in peril/detective features: "The series feels more akin to the 2015 Will Ferrell/Kristen Wiig feature, A Deadly Adoption, itself meant to be a send-up of Lifetime movies," says Kristen Lopez. "Like that feature, the humor of The Woman in the House is too broad to feel specific to this particular genre and plays things too straight to ever feel like it’s winking at anything, or even that the audience should find it comedic. The moments meant to inspire laughs are clearly telegraphed, particularly in the cavalier way Anna recounts the story of her daughter’s death. Suffice it to say it involves Take Your Daughter to Work Day and a man named Massacre Mike. Other moments, like a potential criminal and Anna going on about the type of bread she’s meant to text her husband to let him know not to come home also is funny in its absurdity, but it’s a one-off moment. Long the domain of male creatives like the Zucker brothers of Airplane fame, there’s certainly a lot that could be poked fun at with a series like this, but the creators never go hard enough."
    • The Woman in the House is often hilarious and sometimes genuinely suspenseful -- until it comes undone: "After carefully mixing its sight gags with a plausible murder mystery, this show...goes off the rails like a commuter train carrying an inquisitive day drinker," says Carla Meyer, adding: "So much of this show has been crafted so carefully that you wish that one unseemly sequence did not exist. But if wishes were horses, we would dance on one in the rain."
    • TWITHATSFTGITW falls into the traps that it’s trying to critique: "Because of Anna’s grief, an absurdly heightened reaction to rain after the death of her daughter on a rainy day (you’d think she’d move from her high precipitation locale, but I digress), and her addiction, Anna is told that what she sees is more likely an hallucination than bearing witness to a legitimate crime," says Scarlett Harris. "It’s the same stuff of the works that inspired it, but here feels like an insensitive portrayal of mental illness in an attempt to align itself with its forebears. Anna keeps doing things like venturing out during a storm even though it’s a trigger for her and inexplicably reaching into a hot oven without gloves, actions which make her less sympathetic and more like a caricature (particularly when juxtaposed with Amy Adams’ more convincing portrayal of agoraphobia in The Woman in the Window). And while I don’t think a protagonist has to be likable — certainly none of TWITHATSFTGITW’s contemporaries are — they should at least resemble an actual human person. Anna is so flighty, haphazard and naive that it’s really hard for viewers to care about her plight."
    • The Woman in the House doesn’t seem to know what it is: "You don’t need to be a 2010s thriller fan to guess the softly lampooned cliches that lie within," says Chitra Ramaswamy. "The woman on the edge who looks like she has never been within 10ft of any actual edge, the sexy suspenseful vibes, and the hot guy who may or may not be a murderer. What’s really creepy about this 'darkly comedic', 'built to be binged' limited series is that its title is the only spoofy thing about it. Otherwise, TWITHATSFTGITW, starring and executive-produced by the usually funny Kristen Bell playing it bewilderingly straight, is not funny at all. Nor is it serious. It doesn’t seem to know what it is. A meta-spoof spoofing a stab at a spoof, perhaps? Ultimately – and I’ve watched all eight episodes – this tonal confusion makes it ludicrous at best and at worst disturbing. And not in the way creators Rachel Ramras, Hugh Davidson and Larry Dorf intended."
    • The Woman in the House often feels like it forgets it's a parody: "In theory, The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window is an ingenious premise," says Saloni Gajjar. "The long title is a witty wink to the genre it attempts to parody: psychological thrillers like 2016’s The Girl On The Train and 2021’s The Woman In The Window. Unfortunately, this Netflix comedy is hardly inventive. In fact, it’s quite tedious. The show provides no insight on how this particular update on Rear Window-type mysteries—a traumatized, alcohol-dependent woman turns into an amateur sleuth when no one believes she witnessed a murder—became compelling viewing. There’s a glaring lack of incisive commentary and comedic risks. The Woman In The House… just rehashes narratives of the films it is trying to lampoon with barely any derisive humor or dramatic flair. It often feels like the show forgets it’s a parody. With eight half-hour episodes, the series drags out the suspense for double the length of the Amy Adams-led The Woman In The Window, the movie most directly referenced, but there’s no justification for the extra runtime. Stuck in the middle of being a dark comedy and a thriller, it delivers a humdrum story on both fronts."
    • Kristen Bell says The Woman in the House required some "good, bad acting": “I definitely leaned more into the authenticity (than the satire),” Bell explains. “I was confused about how to accomplish this tone, because the first couple of episodes are much more sincere, and then once we hook the viewer with the suspense, the absurdity starts to kick in.” 
    • As a true-crime aficionado, Bell was drawn to The Woman in the House: She hopes that fellow lovers of all things dark and mysterious are drawn to the show. "I think that people will devour this show, because it's sort of made to be binged, every single scene, practically, is a cliffhanger," she explains, adding: "And it builds suspense, like a normal mystery show could, but in increasing absurdity, which hopefully will make you laugh."

    TOPICS: The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window, Netflix, Kristen Bell


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