Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Screenwriter: Nacho Vigalondo
Cast: Elijah Wood, Sasha Grey, Neil Maskell, Adam Quintero, Ivan Gonzalez, Jaime Olias, Rachel Arieff
World Premiere | SpectreVision
Not Rated | 100 Minutes
Release Date: March 10, 2014 (SXSW)
Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood) is a lucky guy. As the winner of an online contest, he gets to have dinner with actress Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey). Goddard is promoting her latest film, Dark Sky, at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, where Nick is scheduled to meet up with her afterward.
But then he gets a phone call from Chord, Jill’s manager. Chord (Neil Maskell) informs Nick that dinner is cancelled â€“ that Goddard bailed on the contest â€“ but there is a consolation prize, one that will allow Nick to interact with Jill in a way no fan ever has.
Chord gives Nick a set of hi-tech tools to spy on Jill from his laptop, giving him total access to her personal information and electronic devices, as well as security cameras. As Chord begins relaying instructions to Nick, it becomes apparent that Chord isn’t who he says he is, and that Nick is a puppet in a much bigger, more sinister plot.
Open Windows is the third feature film by Vigalondo, the Spanish filmmaker known for 2007’s Timecrimes and the 2011 alien invasion film, Extraterrestrial. He also directed the segment “A is for Apocalypse” for Drafthouse Films’ The ABCs of Death.
Inspired by films like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Brian De Palma’s Blow Out, Open Windows is a twisty, 21st century techno-thriller where all the action unfolds on a series of screens. Nick’s laptop is filled with open windows, allowing you to experience the narrative from multiple angles and viewpoints. In one window, you can see Nick via a video call he’s having with Chord. In another, a scantily clad Jill walks around her hotel room.
Vigalondo’s film is an intricate, dizzying exercise in suspense, but there’s just one problem: there’s no real connection to the characters. Because of this “found footage 2.0” style of shooting, Nick doesnâ€™t feel real. While Elijah Wood delivers a fantastic performance, there is a disconnect because every interaction is filtered through a series of screens. I see what Vigalondo is getting at – that technology creates walls and barriers between us, preventing true human interaction – but the narrative suffers as a result of our inability to connect with Nick and Jill Goddard.
Sasha Grey turns in a solid performance but it’s impossible to empathize with her character. She’s a total diva who doesn’t seem to care about bailing on her biggest fan. If only Jill Goddard were more like Anna Kendrick and less like Paris Hilton, then the audience could care for her – but she’s kind of a bitch, honestly. I’m not saying she deserves to be kidnapped by a madman and forced to strip on camera but I don’t necessarily feel sorry for her.
I expected Open Windows to be weirder â€“ a little further “out there.” It’s actually a fairly straight-ahead thriller, until a series of surprises at the end cancel out each other to create a wholly unsatisfying finale. Still, there’s a lot to appreciate here – Vigalondo deserves praise for the technical skill required to pull off this kind of story to begin with – but ultimately Open Windows is too preoccupied in plotting its twists and turns to find a logical and rewarding conclusion.
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