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TIFF 2023: WOMAN OF THE HOUR Showcases A Different Perspective On The Typical Serial Killer Story

Anna Kendrick is an actor who has her own niche when it comes to her acting career. The bubbly, quirky and immensely talented actress has a certain brand she has created for herself, based on her film choices. So it’s incredibly surprising that her directorial debut is in a genre unlike anything that she’s acted in before. In this Woman Of The Hour review, I’ll discuss just how Kendrick impresses as a director in a story about a serial killer that is from an entirely different perspective than we’re used to.

Please note that despite being a true story, this Woman Of The Hour review will avoid any spoilers. 

The Most Impressive Directorial Debut Of TIFF 2023

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Woman Of The Hour is based on a true story about a serial killer in the ’60s. The story specifically focuses on the character of Cheryl (Anna Kendrick), a struggling actress who agrees to go on a dating game show, to get more exposure for her career. Unknowingly, Cheryl’s match on The Dating Game is a man who unbeknownst to her, is a massive serial killer. Who was potentially looking at Cheryl as his next victim.

Woman Of The Hour not only tells the story of Cheryl but also of  Rodney Alcara (Daniel Zovatto), who went on to become one of the most infamous serial killers in history. But Kendrick’s direction of the film makes this stand out as not your typical serial killer movie. It’s more dread and nuance, than gory kill shots. This points out the stark contrast between men directing movies about women being murdered or terrorized, versus a woman’s point of view on it all.

Kendrick Shines As A Debutant Director In Woman Of The Hour

Most serial killer movies directed by men treat the scenes as a horror movie. There’s a build-up of tension and dread, dark alleys, a frantic chase, enhanced by suspenseful music and plenty of jump scares to keep the audience enthralled. It’s a very male viewpoint on emotions that men can only imagine, and never experience. So a horror story vibe is the closest thing they can equate those situations to. This is why most serial killer movies are very gratuitous in their depiction of violence, blood and gore.

Kendrick’s Woman Of The Hour on the other hand is very unique, not in the sense that it’s directed by a woman, but in the choices that Kendrick makes as a director. Many of the scenes with Rodney and his victims are without any background score or music. She allows the scenes to play out simply through the dialogues and performances. It’s chilling and uncomfortable and gradually creates an atmosphere of pure dread. Without relying on anything else in those moments. It’s effective and absolutely heart-pounding. An impressive feat for any director, much less a first-time one.

Woman Of The Hour Review Is Spoiler-Free

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Adding to this already amazing movie is the performance of Zovatto. As the main villain, Zovatto plays the character as creepy, slimy and completely unhinged. But there’s also a sense of charm, confidence and self assured-ness that comes off as disarming, instead of dangerous. It’s a great performance that really makes you buy into the character and their deplorable actions.

The only sticking point is the performance of Kendrick herself in the film. While Kendrick is very talented, her association with the usual perky rom-coms or light-hearted movies, makes her inclusion here feel out of place. While her performance is great, tonally she seems like she doesn’t belong in a dramatic film about killers, as you’re expecting her brand of acting to be counterintuitive to that. It’s a minor sticking point, but one that doesn’t take away from the rest of the film.

Woman Of The Hour Review Verdict

As I’ve discussed in this Woman Of The Hour review, the movie is a great departure from the usual serial killer movie, from a different perspective. The story creates tension, and Kendrick’s direction enhances that with some brilliant technical choices that make the movie stand out in its genre. It’s definitely a movie that may be triggering to some, with the depictions of some toxic relationship scenes, some violence and gaslighting, but it’s just a further portrayal of the brutality of what happened.

Woman Of The Hour is a wonderful debut as a director for Kendrick, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Woman Of The Hour premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival 2023.

For more reviews out of TIFF 2023, subscribe to The Movie Blog, and follow me on X (Twitter) at @theshahshahid for more TIFF coverage as it happens.

Woman Of The Hour Review: A Different Kind Of Serial Killer Movie
  • Acting - 8/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 9/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 9/10
  • Setting/Theme - 7/10
  • Watchability - 9.5/10
  • Rewatchability - 7/10
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