Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Open Window

Open Window looks like a made-for-television film,but it tackles a traumatic event with relative nuance. Soon after a professor Peter (Joel Edgerton) proposes to his photographer girlfriend Izzy (Robin Tunney), she is raped by an intruder. Izzy slips into depression and gradually exposes the truth to friends and family. The movie is unusual in that it tracks the reactions of those around her, showing that they, too, are in a kind of shock. Even the best friends misread the situation or don't know what to say.

The script is also ambitious in its exploration of how a violation can bring up past griefs. We see both Izzy's and Peter's strained relationships with their parents and catch glimpses of their professional lives. Robin Tunney is very believable, and Joel Edgerton gives a relatively sensitive performance. Unfortunately, Izzy's obnoxious mother (Cybill Shepherd) comes across as a caricature, though she eventually reveals hidden layers. Izzy's father (Elliott Gould) is more kindhearted but rather lackluster. Several awkwardly acted scenes are further dulled by the bland cinematography. I won't even ask how the young couple can afford such remarkable housing.

The film might have an air of mediocrity, and it doesn't exactly punch you in the gut. Nonetheless, it is an improvement over, for example, David Schwimmer's supposedly true to life film Trust (2010) which busts myths about sexual assault with remarkable heavy-handedness. Open Window is an unexpectedly subtle and realistic portrayal of the complicated recovery after a terrifying attack.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


The terrible film Acolytes could have been a disturbing, claustrophobic thriller. Its intriguing premise features three troubled teens, a threatening assailant, and a cleverer, more malevolent presence. While the opening sequence features the cliché “girl running through forest from pursuer,” its lovely color scheme, jolting edits, and surreal pacing suggest a more affective film than what follows. The audience then encounters three teenagers who skip school and smoke weed. It is unclear why Chasely (Hanna Mangan-Lawrence) prefers the mouthy James (Joshua Payne) to their friend Mark (Sebastian Gregory). Perhaps the confusion arises from the fact that these characters are poorly realized and dully acted. Chasely spends the film staring blankly into space as she listens to music (the movie has a strong indie soundtrack), screaming and crying when the occasion arises (she is a girl, after all), and looking sexy. James is obnoxious and callous, and Mark, our ostensible protagonist, might be the most uninteresting of the lot. They stumble upon a body and wonder if it is connected to Gary Parker (Michael Dorman), a young ex-con who attacked them when they were kids.

One minute characters freak out at some horrific development, the next they are inexplicably composed, speaking in their usual, expressionless voices. The highlight of the film, other than its beautiful, high-contrast cinematography, is Joel Edgerton’s calm serial killer Ian Wright. His physical appearance is entirely unimaginative (how many movies feature psychos who wear glasses, tuck in their shirts, and sport bland expressions?), but we see flashes of intelligence and habitual sadism. Because this murderer is more interesting than the three leads, any connection with or threat he poses to them drums up little suspense. The ostensibly intense conclusion contains a jarring shock that makes no sense. The film’s potential is ruined by a narrative that is beyond jumbled, tediously paced, and unconvincingly acted.