The only thing worse than a legitimately talented actor repeatedly being denied a long-overdue Academy Award is seeing that same actor resort to any means necessary to break their duck. For Leonardo DiCaprio, the solution was to get tossed around like a rag doll by a CGI bear and eat raw bison liver. There’s no doubting Leo’s commitment to the bit, but let’s face it, nobody remembers The Revenant for anything other than being the grueling ordeal that finally netted him an Oscar. Meanwhile, Glenn Close has now received eight acting Oscar nominations without a win, an unfortunate distinction that ties her with the late Peter O’Toole for the worst Academy Awards acting luck of all time. (If we could give Close an Oscar for “Da Butt,” we would.)
It’s a relief that Close didn’t end her string of L’s this year for, of all movies, Hillbilly Elegy. But the fact that she’s one more nomination and loss away from surpassing O’Toole’s mark perhaps overshadows the fact that her Hillbilly Elegy costar is in the midst of her own bad Oscars streak.
Amy Adams is a generational talent and a jack-of-all-trades movie star. Just look at her versatile body of work, which ranges from Enchanted—a realistic imagining of the actress as a flesh-and-blood Disney princess—to a role as Dick Cheney’s quietly menacing spouse in Vice. And yet an Oscar has continued to elude Adams, who’s now up to six nominations without a win. It’s some consolation that the Academy didn’t even bother to add to Adams’s nomination tally with Hillbilly Elegy, a shameless and trashy piece of Oscar bait that had none of the actress’s usual depth and nuance. But for Adams, as with Close, the Hillbilly Elegy message was clear: I want that Oscar, and I’ll do whatever it takes to get it. (It’s no bison liver, but this is a tough look all around.)
If the Academy was actually consistent with recognizing the best film performances in a given year, this wouldn’t even be an issue. Adams was nothing short of exceptional in Arrival, Denis Villeneuve’s 2016 sci-fi film that, thanks to a late twist, essentially features two Adams performances in one. (Emma Stone would go on to win Best Actress for La La Land, as “person who patiently listens to Ryan Gosling rant about jazz.”) Naturally, in a move that should be considered a criminal offense, Adams was snubbed by the Oscars entirely that year.
Maybe the biggest problem—well, as far as Academy voters go—is that Adams’s best work is often understated, or, in the case of Enchanted, doesn’t fall into the Oscars’ typical wheelhouse. Showier roles call more attention to themselves; in that sense, Leo had the right idea hyping up the misery of working on The Revenant. Hillbilly Elegy was showy for all the wrong reasons, but considering that the Academy recently rewarded Joaquin Phoenix for a performance that peaked with him dancing on some stairs in clown makeup, Adams certainly has the right idea. (Again, if the Oscars were consistent, Phoenix should’ve won for, say, The Master, which Adams costarred in.)
The Academy loves it when a movie star does the Absolute Most, so you can understand why Adams was drawn to a starring role in The Woman in the Window. The movie, which hit Netflix on Friday, comes from British filmmaker Joe Wright, whose projects tend to fall on the Academy’s radar. (To wit: His previous film, The Darkest Hour, landed Gary Oldman a Best Actor win in 2018.) An adaptation of Daniel Mallory’s bestselling novel of the same name, the film stars Adams as Anna Fox, an agoraphobic child psychologist who’s convinced she saw her neighbor across the street get murdered. The Rear Window allusions aren’t hard to spot—even if you don’t include the moment when an actual shot from Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic movie hits the screen.
A Hitchcockian thriller based on a hit novel from a director whose films are usually catnip for some Oscars attention? It’s a step up from Hillbilly Elegy, at least. Oscar aspirations aside, Adams playing a gaslit protagonist definitely piques the interest. Unfortunately, if you’ve kept up with The Woman in the Window’s turbulent road to Netflix, it should come as no surprise that the film isn’t destined for awards so much as becoming the next unintentionally campy, so-bad-it’s-good classic.
The Woman in the Window’s problems didn’t just stem from a troubled production—more on that later—but from its iffy source material. In a revealing 2019 feature from The New Yorker, Mallory, who writes under the pen name A.J. Finn, was exposed for lying about having a brain tumor, his mother dying of cancer, and his brother dying by suicide—to say nothing of his book borrowing liberally from the 1995 thriller Copycat without attribution. In an ironic twist, the author’s numerous deceptions had pulpier twists than the contents of his writing. The film, whose production began a year before Mallory’s fabrications came to light, underwent reshoots that left screenwriter Tracy Letts lamenting that the experience “kind of sucked.”
Collectively, the process was a perfect storm of schadenfreude, punctuated by The Woman in the Window’s original production company, 20th Century Studios, selling the film to Netflix last year. What had the makings of another prestige-inclined project for Adams became, instead, a disaster—though I should stress that the movie’s issues are no fault of its star. Adams gives The Woman in the Window everything she has, but there’s only so much she can do in a movie so tonally jarring that Anna’s downstairs tenant (played by Wyatt Russell) goes from seeming genuinely nice to threatening his landlord in the space of half an hour.
Somehow, Adams’s best film from the past few years is arguably the Snyder Cut, which isn’t exactly a showcase for the actress’s talents as much as her Lois Lane looking forlorn and (quite understandably) admiring Clark Kent’s abs. Within this period of time, Adams’s finest work has been on the small screen, playing a self-destructive journalist with alcoholism, Camille Preaker, in the HBO miniseries Sharp Objects. It’s a harrowing performance that’s even more compelling than the series’ slow-burn mystery, and it reveals new layers and dark depths to a superlative actress. Of course, Adams didn’t even get an Emmy for her troubles.
Given her number of snubbed performances, I’m starting to believe Adams has the acting accolades equivalent of the Cleveland sports curse. If logic prevailed, Adams should’ve won an Oscar years ago—for Junebug, Enchanted, Arrival, take your pick. She might not be doing herself any favors lately with her project choices, but there’s hope yet that Adams will find the right movie and role to get the award(s) she so richly deserves. (The Cleveland sports curse did end, after all.) In the meantime, I am just a man in the window, hoping that Amy Adams will one day know peace—and what it’s like to hold an Oscar in her hands.