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Kristen Bell wanders through the aimless satire of Netflix’s The Woman In The House

The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window is a contrived parody of psychological thrillers

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Kristen Bell in The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window
Kristen Bell in The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window
Photo: Colleen E. Hayes/Netflix

In theory, The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window is an ingenious premise. 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.

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The unreliable narrator here is Anna Whitaker (Kristen Bell), a divorced and wine-obsessed artist who spends her time drinking and reading crime novels while sitting by the window and staring outside. Her monotonous life is upended when a handsome single father, Neil (Tom Riley), moves into the house opposite Anna’s with his young daughter, Emma (Samsara Leela Yett). Anna begins integrating herself into their world, at least until the arrival of Neil’s prim air hostess girlfriend, Lisa (Shelley Hennig).

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Anna’s instant attraction to Neil and bond with Emma is a Band-Aid for her grief over losing her own family. Her child, Elizabeth (Appy Pratt), was killed in a reckless accident, which led to Anna splitting from her husband, Douglas (Michael Ealy). Now, the show takes a hilarious swing in revealing how Elizabeth died—as upsetting as it might be—which is made even funnier by Bell’s sincere voiceover of the event. It sets the bar for the kind of amusing, ridiculous stuff The Woman In The House will deliver. Only, there’s no such payoff.

Most of the jokes are subtle and scattered, laying quietly in the background while the episodes progress in a relatively straightforward manner: The epitaph on Elizabeth’s headstone keeps changing every time Anna visits. The trashy mysteries Anna reads have titles like The Woman Across The Lake and The Girl On The Cruise. These cheeky one-offs never turn into something more.

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Kristen Bell and Benjamin Levy Aguillar in The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window
Kristen Bell and Benjamin Levy Aguillar in The Woman In The House Across The Street From The Girl In The Window
Photo: Colleen E. Hayes/Netflix

Anna frequently mixes her alcohol with prescription pills and has hallucinations of Elizabeth. She has also isolated herself from all her neighbors and friends, except for Sloane (Mary Holland). So, when she witnesses a murder taking place at Neil’s house one night, no one really believes her. Anna begins to question her own sanity, as well as her impression of Neil, which was shaped by a quick infatuation.

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To prove what she saw, Anna sets off on a solitary mission to uncover Neil and Lisa’s past. The Woman In The House deploys plenty of unnecessary twists and turns from this point, detours that slow down the plot of an already boring mystery. There are usual suspects and red herrings, including Neil, Lisa’s ex-boyfriend Rex (Benjamin Levy Aguilar), and Anna’s carpenter Buell (Cameron Britton), who has been working on fixing her mailbox for years now.

The Woman In The House offers some physical comedy through Anna’s ombrophobia (fear of rain), akin to Anna Fox’s agoraphobia in The Woman In The Window. She crumbles when she’s caught in a downpour, so naturally, the chaotic conclusion occurs on a rainy night. Bell is a proven comedic force, but even her impeccable timing and delivery can’t save the uneven script. The show’s breakout star is Yett, who, in her first series regular role, holds her own opposite Bell. Despite the strong performances, The Woman In The House is nothing more than a wasted opportunity to poke fun at, while still appreciating, successful thrillers.