Open Windows Review

Posted: September 15, 2014 in 2014 Fantasy FilmFest, Action, Drama, Reviews, Thriller
Tags: , , ,

Open WindowsIf you try very hard, you can make a case for Open Windows to be a cyber-inspired reimagining of Rear Window. In the 21st century, laptops, smart phones, and surveillance cameras are to us what a telephoto lens and an apartment window were to Americans in the 1950’s: a means to look into the living rooms and bedrooms of our neighbors. That would make Elijah Wood this generation’s Jimmy Stewart, and Wood does carry some of the same nebbish Everyman qualities, though his characters, to date, have not shown the same flinty internal strength. Where this imagined connection between movies falters is with Sasha Grey as a stand-in for Grace Kelly, or Nacho Vigalando for Alfred Hitchcock. Still, Rear Window was a gimmick movie as is Open Windows. The difference is that in Hitchcock’s masterpiece, the gimmick is used to introduce the action; in Vigalando’s rather ordinary effort, the gimmick overwhelms the action.

Wood plays webmaster Nick Chambers, whose video scrapbook homage to the actress Jill Goddard (Grey) is the most visible symptom of an obsession that has brought him to a hotel room in Austin, Texas, during the Fantastic Fest film festival. Nick has won an Internet contest to have dinner with Jill, but as he watches a livestream of her appearance at the festival, he learns that Jill has decided to cancel the dinner. Chord, the staffer who informs him of the cavalier cancellation, does offer a consolation prize: video hook-ups to cameras watching Jill from every angle, all fed directly to Nick’s laptop along with access to Jill’s phone, including activation of the camera and real-time monitoring of her calls. All of this comes to Nick through windows on his laptop, which, unlike any Windows product ever released by Microsoft, works without a glitch.

It soons becomes apparent that Chord has his own agenda, and that Nick is no more than a peripheral device in his master plan. Nick is left to chase his own tail as well as Jill’s much nicer tail through the streets of Austin in a story that becomes increasily implausible with every gigabyte used on Nick’s comically powerful laptop. At the point where Jill is in the trunk of Chord’s car, followed by Nick, who is consulting by video conference with three hackers in Paris, who have tapped into cameras in the back of the trunk showing the outline of Jill’s body, you realize that the film has gone from entertaining to annoying. The reliance on computer windows to show the action wears out its welcome when the needs of the plot overwhelm the capabilities of the technology.

Sasha Grey is an adult film star who works in mainstream movies as well, navigating her career from projects like Butt Sex Bonanza to Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience. Grey’s performance as Jill Goddard is professional, although she has an inexperienced actress’s tendency to overplay petulance. She is most effective in the most uncomfortable scenes, when Nick is forced by Chord to go from voyeur to video victimizer. Her worst moments come from the script and not from any lack of ability.

Wood has the unfortunate task of playing a character that loses credibility 10 minutes into the movie, when he makes the first of many decisions to go along with what a disembodied voice tells him to do, no matter how ridiculous or dangerous those directions might be. Granted, Neil Maskell, who voices Chrod, is compelling, but Open Windows suffers from being one of those films in which the narrative continues only because the central character acts illogically, refusing to call the police or simply to say no and walk away. The Keyser Söze ending is an even greater irritant, reminding viewers of the gaping plot holes along the way.

Two stars.

 

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