If you’re going to spoof a genre — particularly one as popular as murder mysteries and psychological thrillers — you have to commit to the bit.
Netflix’s The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window — a title that makes a lot more sense once you start watching — is an amalgamation. It draws on books like Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, and The Woman in the Window, and their on-screen adaptations. But this spoof gets lost in those influences somewhere along the way.
Kristen Bell plays Anna, the titular woman, who numbs her traumatic past with booze and pills and failed casseroles. She’s also afraid to go outside in the rain, which gives us the show’s creepy theme song cover of “Rain, Rain, Go Away.”
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.” 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.
Viewers will have to step back and question whether they’re watching a cheeky send-up or a disorienting attempt at the real thing.
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.
The answer is both, which only adds to the confusion. 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.
Made up of eight half-hour episodes, Woman in the House is the sort of thing you can binge in full, even by accident. There are enough cliffhangers to keep you curious despite the formula, and there are a handful of gratifying jokes peppered in there, if sporadically.
In the end, The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window would have worked better as an SNL sketch, but it still pairs great with a giant glass of wine.