A movie about peeping Tom’s, this is like It’s A Wonderful Life but for nerds.
Screenplay By: John Michael Hayes
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock
Rear Window is all about entrapment, about being shut in and forced to look out on a world you can’t partake in. It just so happens that the world you can’t partake in may contain a murder or two. How does one handle the possible knowledge of a murder when they are confined to a wheelchair in their apartment? You look, and you gather information. That information is the sinew of Rear Window, because it isn’t a movie about a voyeur but rather it is a movie about the lives that the man sees through his window. He watches the trials and tribulations of a burgeoning musician. He is privy to the relationship follies of a lady that has no luck in love. He’s witness to a marriage gone bad. Rear Window is about life in general, it merely hides that fact in the enclosed atmosphere of an apartment. The life we get to see is well thought out and full. We care about the lives of those people on the other side of the windows, because we are given reasons to care. Rear Window isn’t a movie without heart or feeling. Information may be needed to solve a murder but the information about what life is really about is the most important information of all.
Needless to say Rear Window featured the usual suspense and brilliantly off key camera work you expect from Alfred Hitchcock. The tension in Rear Window escalates until you are left with a final few minutes so intense that you are sure Jeff is a goner. Unfortunately those last few minutes also lead to a glaring flaw in the movie, Jeff’s fall off the windowsill. I know it was 1954 and that was probably the best that could be done, but that doesn’t mean it looks any less cheesy. A moment like that is unfortunate because it takes you right out of the movie.
What keeps you in the movie is the performance of James Stewart. His role is a very limiting one, he is restricted beyond belief in what he can do. Stewart has always been a very physical actor, he speaks as much with his body language as he does with his mouth. Rear Window allowed for Stewart to impress with his eyes, his pauses in between words and his longing glances out those windows. This was one of Stewart’s best performances, and in a career full of great performances that’s no small feat. I will differ from most people in that I didn’t much care for Grace Kelly’s performance. It wasn’t a bad performance, but I felt she came across as too regal. She was so cold and stately that it felt like she was acting most of the time and I could never really get into her character as a result. But, her performance didn’t detract from the movie and none of the actors did for that matter.
Rear Window isn’t Hitchcock’s best, but it is one of his best films. It’s a wonderful suspense film with comedic moments and an interesting take on the “hero.” Rear Window was shot beautifully and acted out in splendid fashion. All told Rear Window came together for one heck of a picture, if they just could have done something about Stewart’s fall.