Monday, April 1, 2013

Movie Review: Rear Window (1954)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Great acting; interesting second half
Cons: Very slow start
The Bottom Line:
Very slow to start
Which drags down the second half
It's worth watching once

"I'm Going to Make This a Week You'll Never Forget."

I have a weird relationship with Hitchcock's films. I've watched several now, and I've found the more praised the film is, the less I like it. The ones I've enjoyed the most are the ones that fewer people have heard of and hardly anyone talks about. Rear Window definitely falls into that trap. The second half was entertaining enough, but it wasn't the masterpiece I was expecting.

It's summer in New York, but L. B. "Jeff" Jefferies(James Stewart) is trapped in his apartment with a severely broken leg. Aside from the daily visits from his nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) and girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly), his only diversion is watching the people in the apartment complex out his back window. And since it is the middle of a horrid heat wave, everyone has their window open at all times.

Late one night, Jeff witness something funny going on across the way. The invalid wife in one of the apartments has vanished and the husband (Raymond Burr) is taking many trips out of the apartment carrying something in his suitcase. Jeff quickly assumes the wife was murdered. Enlisting Lisa and Stella's help, he tries to prove it. But is he right? And can he prove it without leaving his own apartment?

One thing I have often found with old movies is that they are slow. This one is certainly no exception. The first third of this one is very slow as it introduces our three lead characters and sets up several stories that Jeff is watching unfold in the apartment building across the way. They unfold much like soap operas, but I must admit I was drawn into them by the time the film ended.

Once the main story got started, it certainly held my interest. There were a few times I was glued to the screen. And the climax, while a tad predictable, certainly had my full attention. The problem is that isn't the case the whole way through. For a suspense movie, this one didn't truly have my full attention much of the time even after the main story finally got going. Frankly, Hitchcock has done better elsewhere of playing with our minds. I had things pretty much figured out early on in movie, and I just watching things unfold.

The saving grace for this movie is the characters and the acting. Our three lead characters are all interesting and likeable. As a result, we care about them and what happens to them. Heck, this even applies to the characters across the way. While those actors don't have much to do, they make the most of what they have.

Not that the three leads slack in that department. Much of this movie sits on the shoulders of James Stewart, and he is more then up for the challenge. You can feel his frustration at his situation radiating off of him. Grace Kelly is charming as girlfriend Lisa. But the unsung hero of the picture is Thelma Ritter. Her nurse character has a hard exterior with a compassionate heart. Plus she gets several great one liners, and her delivery is perfect.

Just because I hit another clunker doesn’t mean I am giving up Hitchcock. Rear Window certainly had its moments, even if I didn't think it lived up to its hype. I'm just going to make sure I watch any film of his that interests me since my tastes in Hitchcock don't seem to match those of the general populations.

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