Open WindowReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 09/12/06 12:47:55
(Worth A Look)
SCREENED AT THE 2006 BOSTON FILM FESTIVAL: The days of one's town or neighborhood having one cinema (or the TV just having a few channels), are long gone, meaning someone is much less likely to go in blind and just take whatever comes. People seeing a movie generally have some idea of what kind of story they're getting themselves into. So if you opt to see Open Window, you know that when the first five minutes include a marriage proposition cutely delivered and eagerly accepted, the characters are being set up to be knocked over.The hammer, in this case, comes in the form of Izzy (Robin Tunney) being raped in her own home photo studio. Pater (Joel Edgeron) finds her locked in a closet and takes her to the hospital, but like many rape victims she declines to file a police report. Peter is supportive, but the situation soon puts a strain on their relationship, as an emotionally scarred Izzy becomes reclusive and Peter finds himself unable to do anything to help.
Robin Tunney has some tricky work to do, since for a good third of the movie, her character just won't get out of bed, which has the potential to make for some less-than-dynamic scenes. We initially empathize with her, but Mia Goldman's script isn't afraid to have Izzy make less-than-optimal decisions, right from the moment she opts not to file a police report. Tunney manages to keep the audience generally seeing Izzy in a positive light, but also keeps the character from appearing a faultless saint. She is a victim, and deserves the audience's empathy, but we also want someone to find a way to jolt her out of her self-pity, even as the former makes us feel guilty about the latter.
Because of that, the audience may often find themselves most closely identifying with Josh Edgerton's Peter, who is at the same kind of remove as the audience and shares a lot of their reactions - sympathy, eventual impatience, guilt over even having mixed emotions - on top of frustration that there's not more he can do to make things right. In many ways, he's the one that everyone in the audience can approach; being raped is a very specific form of torment, but being pushed away by someone you love and not being able to put up a fight because of what they're going through is fairly universal. Still, it's a credit to Edgerton that he pulls it off without ever looking like an uncaring monster.
Part of the reason he can is that his character has his own troubles; he's dealing with an eccentric father (Scott Wilson) who has decided to go back to Arkansas after being more or less run out of the state years earlier, along with squabbles over tenure and department position at the university where he teaches. Scott Wilson plays Eddie as a grumpy old lefty, smart and passionate but rustic enough to drive his academic son crazy. Izzy's parents are portrayed by Cybil Shepherd and Elliott Gould. Shepherd's Arlene is the overbearing, larger-than-life type, embarrassing and not willing to respect bounds. Gould's John is a sportswriter who loves his daughter so unconditionally that the prospect of disappointing the soft-spoken man seems extra frightening. Shirley Jones appears in the film's second half as the therapist who seems to do the best job getting through to her.
Matt Keeslar plays the rapist, but we see very little of him; writer/director Mia Goldman opts against having a graphic, extended rape scene. We see bits of it in flashback, seldom more than a second or two at a time, just enough to let the audience know what happened without necessarily trying to make them feel what Izzy's experienced. It's probably the right choice, as this is a film about recovery and rebuilding. We've got to see what happens as a terrible violation, and that it will stay with Izzy for the rest of her life, but we've also got to see that she may, eventually, be able to get past it and live her life again. Although both Izzy and Peter have scenes where they imagine seeing him, actually catching the guy is never really an issue. That's not what this story is about.
Goldman spent a lot of time as an editor before writing and directing this, her first feature. The end result does show reflect that as a strength; the pacing is solid, and the things that try our patience are meant to - other directors might have taken the part of the film where Izzy is spending a lot of time in bed and made it boring as opposed to worrisome; there's also a nice sequence showing how time is passing with Izzy still uncomfortable being touched by cutting between sleepless nights. Visually, the film isn't exceptional in any particular direction, good or bad, and there are times in the beginning when she doesn't seem particularly enthused with doing the set-up; the scenes showing Peter in a lecture hall or Izzy at a photo shoot are perfunctory, like she wants to get past them and into the real movie.That's understandable, and when the "real movie" starts, it's rather good. I don't know if it's the definitive getting back to normal after being raped film, but it's a pretty good one.
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