Saturday, January 31, 2009

Open Window

Open Window
Directed by Mia Goldman
Image Entertainment

Even in the original Death Wish (which just marked its thirty-five year anniversary), it would not have been believable for Charles Bronson to hunt down his wife’s attackers and extract retribution. While Bronson’s Paul Kersey finds therapeutic value in dispensing vigilante justice, that simply is not a realistic option for most victims of violent crime. The recovery process can be difficult for victims and family members alike, as writer-director Mia Goldman can attest. The survivor of a brutal attack, Goldman’s experiences directly inform her debut feature, Open Window (trailer here), which is now available on DVD.

Izzy (short for Isabel) Fieldston and Peter Delaney appear to be the perfect couple. Newly engaged, everything seems to be perfect in their lives, except for Delaney’s strained relationship with his leftist father and Fieldston’s issues with her over-bearing mother. Then one day, a sexual predator enters their home through the open garage window. Before raping her, he says in words that will later torment her: “Thanks for inviting me in.”

Her fiancĂ© tries to be supportive, but Fieldston’s refusal to go to the police gnaws at him. As she withdraws emotionally and he becomes increasingly irritable, their relationship falters. At least he succeeds in convincing her to see Dr. Ann Monohan, a psychiatrist affiliated with his university, who helps Fieldston start to recover emotionally. Their counseling scenes together unquestionably feature the sharpest writing in the film.

As Izzy Fieldston, Robin Tunney consistently hits the right pitches throughout Window, never over or underplaying her character’s tumultuous emotions. Two-time Academy Award nominated Shirley Knight is also convincingly authoritative and humane as Dr. Monohan. Unfortunately, playing Fieldston’s mother, Cybill Shepherd comes across as an inappropriate drama queen, often taxing the credulity and patience of the audience. (It is sort of interesting though to see her paired again with Elliott Gould, who plays Fieldston’s sympathetic sports-writer father, reuniting after their 1970’s on-screen coupling in the unnecessary remake of Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes.)

Clearly, Goldman is well regarded in the industry, attracting big name directors Lasse Hallstrom (known for My Life as a Dog and Something to Talk About, which Goldman edited) and Todd Field (responsible for the thematically related In the Bed Room) as Window’s executive producers. Cliff Eidelman also contributes a moody and effective score that at times sounds somewhat jazz-flavored, and features drummer Peter Erskine, trumpeter Wayne Bergeron, and saxophonist Daniel Higgins, all of whom have recorded jazz sessions as leaders.

Goldman proves to be a remarkably sensitive screenwriter and director. While Window might not be what many would consider a fun viewing experience given its subject matter, it is a finely crafted directorial debut, offering genuine insight into the survival process, both for the targets of crimes of brutality, and their friends and family.