Review: Rear Window (1954)

From time to time, there are things that seem to impress most people that do not impress me. I will spare you by not linking to my post about The Dark Knight for the zillionth time; if you don’t know my opinion, you’re obviously new to this blog. (Welcome!) Most recently, in commenting about Michael Fassbender’s work so far, I stated that I don’t like Tarantino, which got some reaction. It was suggested I write about that, and I probably will, at some point. Given that this post claims to be a review of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, I’m going to assume you can all figure out where I’m going with this, and I hope you’ll hear me out.

Rear Window is #42 on the AFI list. It’s directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and tells the story of laid-up photographer Jeff (Jimmy Stewart) who has nothing better to do than look out of his window and watch his neighbors. When one neighbor begins acting suspiciously, Jeff becomes obsessed with figuring out whether or not the man has murdered his wife. He is encouraged in his investigation by his fiancee, Lisa (Grace Kelly), and his caretaker, Stella (Thelma Ritter). He is dissuaded by his friend, NYPD detective Tom Doyle (Wendell Corey). Naturally, given that it’s Hitchcock, the movie is suspenseful and keeps the audience guessing right up until the very end.

Did I say it was “suspenseful”? Maybe for somebody. It’s obviously a very popular and highly-regarded film, and I can think of half a dozen people who are likely to pop up and tell me how insane I am for not liking it. I don’t think anyone’s mental health can be attached to their like or dislike of a movie, but I guess, in this case, I just didn’t get it. I didn’t find it to be particularly suspenseful, I didn’t find the characters to be engaging or enjoyable to spend time with, and I thought the entire device of the movie – the discussion between whether or not a crime had been committed or not – was ultimately completely confusing. Without giving anything away, I think what I’d have to say is that one of the voices, for me, was simply more persuasive than the others, and that when the big reveal was made, it did not happen clearly enough (and offered no explanation for points made elsewhere in the film) to give me any sense of closure.

Wikipedia’s analysis of the film does pinpoint some other facets of the film that I can agree with. It is interesting as a look at relationships and how people interpret the events of others’ lives based on what’s happening in their own world. It’s very tightly constructed, and the actors all give a sense of being inhibited because they realize that if they can see what everyone else is doing, then everyone else must also be looking at them. I understand that the issues facing Jeff and Lisa in their relationship are mirrored by aspects of what they see in the neighbors’ relationships, and I think that Stewart and Kelly did a good job portraying two people who love each other but are uneasy about their differences. I get all of that. Mostly, I’m disappointed in the “suspense” label, and in how the main storyline is treated. I am generally a big chicken when it comes to creepy or suspenseful movies, and if a film never manages to make me jump once, it just doesn’t count in my book. As for the plot, I thought it was choppy, had some silly discrepancies, and didn’t fit together well once all the pieces were in place.

Obviously, no director or genre is for everyone. I’ve seen four Hitchcock movies at this point, and three of them I found totally unimpressive. The fourth, North by Northwest, however, is freaking amazing, so maybe that one just hits all the right notes for me personally. I’ll be re-watching it again soon (it’s AFI #40), so I’ll try to compare it to what disappointed me about Vertigo and Rear Window. So now, here’s your chance. Explain to me whatever it is I seem to be missing. Please don’t tell me how stupid/insane/obviously-not-a-movie-person I am, as that isn’t really constructive. I would truly like to know what it is that makes Rear Window a big deal for others. It just wasn’t one for me.

5 responses to “Review: Rear Window (1954)

  1. I consider Rear Window to be the best movie Hitchcock ever made (North by Northwest is my #2). I have no problem with you disliking it, though, because you clearly enunciated why. If it wasn’t suspenseful for you, and you didn’t like the characters, then there’s nothing to say about why you “should” like it. I dislike the much loved Breakfast at Tiffany’s precisely because I hated the Holly Golightly character. I understand where you are coming from.

  2. Re: I think the movie might seem like it’s taking too long to unfold, to get the final revelation. However, I enjoyed Rear Window and the slow-drip revelation that come with the protagonist spying his neighbor through a set of binoculars.

  3. I haven’t seen this one yet so can’t comment on it. But I have a similar reaction to yours in regards to To Catch A Thief, I thought overall it’s pretty boring, same with The Bishop’s Wife. See where I’m going with this, I guess I’m not a Cary Grant fan. But before you hurl anything at me, I do think NBNW is a great film!

  4. Thought-provoking post. It is funny how sometimes people are influence by the popular opinion and start liking a film, and then cannot figure out whether they like it – because they really like it, or whether they like because they are supposed to like (everyone else does). I feel the same way about ‘The Dark Knight’ – the film bores me to death. I start watching it – 30 min passes, I just switch it off. The other extremely popular film, which I cannot ‘get’ is ‘American Beauty’ – yes, I know ‘witty, philosophical etc’, but I just don’t understand the reason people are so ‘crazy’ about it. I regard it ‘slightly better than average’ at best. Yeah, hang me.

    • Thanks, and thanks for reading! I agree that a lot of times, people just hop on a bandwagon. Funnily enough, I strongly dislike both of the movies you mention as well. You can even read my views on TDK, if you like. American Beauty was so amazingly boring and uninteresting, and I am still bitter about Spacey winning an Oscar over Russell Crowe in The Insider for merely displaying some sarcasm. That should be like Acting 101, or something.

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