Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Bedroom Window (1987)

A surprisingly nifty little thriller

Sitting down to watch a suspense film with a title like "Bedroom Window" led my movie addled brain to start looking for connections to Hitchcock's "Rear Window." And they are there, from the crime witnessed through a window with limited information to the directing of Curtis Hanson that relies heavily on techniques that were used throughout "Rear Window." You know, shot of voyeur watching somebody suspicious, cut to suspicious guy doing something, cut back to voyeur for reaction shot. The Hitchcock references do not stop there however, rather the entire film is a cornucopia of homages. We have a psycho killer who lives at home with his faceless, controlling mother. Plus the main storyline is that of a man, a Wrong Man if you will, who falls under the hostile eye of the police for a crime he did not commit. So yes, you have seen it all before, but I happily gobbled it up all over again, and then realized that what I had just consumed was actually better than most of Hitchcock's oeuvre.

The plot is one of those that motors along solely because nothing ever goes right. All of the twists are perfectly thought out and it makes for a delightfully messed up tale, but it all totally unrealistic because, come on, who is ever really that unlucky? Terry (Steve Guttenberg) is having an affair with his boss' blonde, accented wife when she spies an assault outside his apartment. The next day a different girl turns up dead a few blocks away but Sylvia (Isabelle Huppert) can't go to the police because that would expose their little tryst. So Terry, trying to be a hero, takes her place and reports the crime. Soon after he is convinced that he has found the real killer himself which leads to him chasing this man, Carl Henderson (Brad Greenquist), around town until his suspicions are verified. One thing leads to another and the next thing you know Carl is running free and Terry is the main suspect. Of course it is all his fault, trying to impress the lady and all that, but this film makes a strong case for not doing your civic duty.

I really have almost all good things to say about this film. It is basically a movie about lying, and how the lies build upon themselves until your normal life is obliterated and you're wanted for murder. But we've all been in similar situations before which is what makes this film so powerful. The courtroom scene in which Wallace Shawn plays a defense attorney who dances rings around the mealy mouthed Terry has no more style than a typical "Law and Order" episode, but is just as engrossing. I was surprised to see Carl Lumbly show up as one of the lawyers because I was under the impression that his career began and ended with "Alias." Brad Greenquist does a superb job at being the frighteningly anguished suspected killer as he comes off as a Good Little Nazi with red hair. As a counterpoint to Spike Lee this film could have been called "Don't Do the Right Thing", as it may win you the approval of some girl and the police but ultimately it is a bad investment. Soon all parties involved think that they can dictate your next move to you only so that a few days later they can start to wonder if it was really you who did the killing. Hanson has done marvelous work since, but "Bedroom Window" sits near the top of his career. It has Hitchcock on the brain, but so do we, and Hanson knows how to tap into our darkest fears and serve up a pulpy thriller that gripped me from the first scene. By Chris Roberts

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