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A devastating rape and its lingering aftermath in the lives of a woman and her fiance' are the subjects of OPEN WINDOW (2007), writer-director Mia Goldman's fictionalized account of a true incident in her own life.
Robin Tunney plays Izzy, an aspiring photographer, and Joel Edgerton (young "Owen Lars" of REVENGE OF THE SITH) is her future husband, Peter. When Izzy is violently raped in her backyard studio while Peter's at work, his desperate attempts to comfort her are rejected as she withdraws from life and spends her days languishing in bed. Thus begins a long, painful process of seperation between the two until they've fully distanced themselves from one another.
Izzy's parents try to help, which subjects us to Cybill Shepherd in full brassy-flouncy mode while Elliot Gould simply Elliot Goulds his way though it all. Shirley Knight appears as a wise therapist who manages to help Izzy get her head back on a little straighter, though she has little to do besides smile knowingly and ask delicately probing questions. Scott Wilson (IN COLD BLOOD, THE RIGHT STUFF) plays Peter's ailing father, and another SITH alumnus, Ahmed Best, pops up briefly for all you Jar-Jar Binks fans.
This is one of those movies that you feel obligated to appreciate no matter how unpleasant or boring it gets, lest you feel insensitive and uncaring towards its important message. Unfortunately, the movie just keeps hammering us over the head with it until Tunney's character finally becomes cold and insufferable. I get it...she's experienced something horrible beyond words. I get it...none of us, especially us guys, can ever fully understand what she's going through. I get it, I get it, I get it.
We must continue to sympathize with her even while she's punishing Peter for not knowing exactly what he should do or say, or for trying too hard to help her, or for even being there at all. And, of course, any time she's finally ready to warm up to him again for a brief moment, he's in the process of withdrawing from her withdrawal. So they keep frustratingly going nowhere, like two people darting from side-to-side trying to get past one another on the sidewalk, until at last she packs up and moves out. I found all of this rather tiresome, and then felt guilty for feeling that way.
I'm sure that writing and directing OPEN WINDOW was a meaningful and cathartic experience for Mia Goldman, who based the story on her own real-life ordeal--which sounds even worse than the one depicted in this film--while working on location as an editor for the film CRAZY PEOPLE in 1989. "I wanted to show how the act violates not only the woman, but also the man--and how it creates circles of pain that may extend to the entire family," Goldman explains. She certainly succeeds in doing so, and very well. So well, in fact, that the circles of pain also extend to the viewer.
Goldman deserves to tell her story to the world, which she does fully and eloquently in OPEN WINDOW. This is surely a great tool for rape counseling, and for helping others begin to comprehend what the experience does to the victim and those around her. But for the casual viewer seeking entertainment, it's slow, depressing, and yes, dull. Unless you happen to like melodramatic suffer-thons laden with maudlin piano and violins, because it's also that.
Added: Tuesday, March 17, 2009
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