What a Netflix Series mouthful
Netflix Series title The Woman in the House Across the Girl in the Window offers some promise; it suggests satire, a long-overdue mockery of the generic, straight-to-streaming service thriller that we have all come to know and, on occasion, enjoy—despite its myriad plot holes and worn-out tropes. Yes, that thriller: pseudo-psychological, sometimes slasher and mostly uninspired.
This one on Netflix features a traumatized female protagonist. (starring a well-known actress whose name is on the tip of your tongue). The protagonist despite all her struggles still has to elude an unrelenting serial killer. And a killer that seems to possess Herculean strength with the unlimited lives of a video game character. While the new Netflix series (TWITHATGITH for short) is in fact a parody of this subgenre, it does not always succeed.
Kristin Bell plays Anna who struggles to cope with her young daughter’s gruesome death and a failed marriage and indulges in wine and prescription pills. She lives in a tasteful suburban home and becomes fixated on her handsome British neighbor, who is also a widower. Anna tries to get to know her attractive neighbor and his daughter through awkward flirtations and her signature casseroles. Things get weirder when Anna witnesses the neighbor’s pretty flight attendant girlfriend get brutally murdered. While audiences are left to guess if her recollection is reliable or an intoxicated hallucination.
Anna’s instability is caused mostly by her daughter’s death, which we learn happened in the most horrific of ways. The death of a child is hardly fertile breeding grounds for comedy, let alone a spoof. Somehow, this seemingly minor yet extreme detail hangs over the entire Netflix series and Anna as a character. We cannot truly empathize with a protagonist or with a TV show with such a frivolous attitude towards genuine tragedy, particularly one so close to home for Anna. Death is a delicate subject that must be handled with sensitivity and nuance; this is especially true for a comedy. Things might have worked better if her daughter was estranged instead of murdered.
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The Netflix series is openly a satire of a serious genre, but in terms of execution, it is neither here nor there. It wants to be a spoof but doesn’t fully commit to it. To start, the plot is believable and competent enough to rival fellow Netflix original thrillers—the certifiably rotten ones that are plagued by bad acting and a laughably predictable script. The writing was also tonally confused and inconsistent (sometimes flat, sometimes over the top); it’s as if Netflix threw a bunch of money at the directors and told them to make an entire series in a month.
One thing the series does illuminate is how the use of sound effects and music can shape the viewing experience. It is reminiscent of the Netflix true-crime documentary that despite however un-compelling the subject matter, the audience might remain engrossed because of the theatrical sound effects. The Woman in the House Across the Girl in the Window employs menacing sound and music ironically, but it works.
Having said all that, this Netflix series isn’t completely unwatchable. The Woman in the House Across the Girl in the Window is a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time, maybe on a Sunday morning nursing a mild hangover (perhaps that’s what they were going for). Just don’t expect Shakespeare.
Words Art Vandelay
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver