Review: Open Windows
REVIEW: It's one thing to for a movie to be bad, but it's another to be bizarrely bad, the way OPEN WINDOWS is. I'm actually sort of throwing the movie a compliment. There's nothing worse than bad in a boring, lazy, contrived way - think OUIJA or ANNABELLE - but the new film from Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo keeps finding unique and interesting ways to make you slap your own forehead in disbelief. It's an ambitious movie , to be sure, and the reaction it receives is more stunned incredulity than disdain. It can only be recommended to people who think they've seen it all, but who don't mind not being rewarded for their time.
The film's gimmick - and it is a gimmick, no matter how deep Vigalondo digs into it - is that it takes place completely on a computer screen. We're ostensibly looking at a monitor the entire time, watching its protagonists and villains run around on Skype windows while all manner of technical jargon will fill in the empty spaces. It seems initially like a humdrum idea that will get old fast, but Vigalondo indeed conjures plenty of novel diversions to keep your eyes busy: security feeds, 3D blueprints, dashboard cams, the works. OPEN WINDOWS doesn't lack for ingenuity when it comes to its concept, but the concept itself can't sustain an incredibly preposterous story and characters who don't make a lick of sense.
And things get going so quickly, we barely have time to contemplate what we're watching before Vigalondo has thrust us into the fray. Elijah Wood plays Nick, a mousy administrator of a website dedicated to red-hot actress Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey, and the fact that the movie wants us to believe Sasha Grey is an A-lister is the first ridiculous touch). Nick has won a trip to Austin, Texas, where Jill is premiering footage from her new film and he'll later get to achieve his dream of actually meeting the starlet. While he waits and watches the actress' press conference, he gets a call from a mysterious Brit named Chord (Neil Maskell), who is able to show him all sorts of neat tricks via the computer. He can tap into Jill's phone and listen in on her conversations, he can show Nick her address book and even access her camera. Nick, amazed yet disturbed, watches as Chord brings him into Jill's private life, where she's revealed to be uptight and bitchy (she cancels her arranged dinner with Nick in order to sleep with her agent). Soon, however, Chord's master plan comes into view, and it seems to revolve around teaching Jill a nasty thing or two while making Nick both witness and accomplice.
Once it seems like OPEN WINDOWS is going to overstay its welcome by becoming something of a high-tech REAR WINDOW, Vigalondo expands his conceit by necessitating Nick flee his hotel room - with his laptop. Yes, in order to stay in touch with Chord, Nick must run around with an open laptop while the faceless man leads him along like a puppet - eventually Nick must even sit with the computer next to him in his car. This is pretty silly stuff, not just as an idea but in execution. Things get even nuttier when three different mystery men attach themselves to Nick's dilemma by claiming to know who Chord is; thus we have more characters on the screen, all yelling at one another, while Nick drives through Austin like a bat out of hell, looking for Jill, being chased by police, being harassed by Chord and also learning about a legendary hacker calling himself "Nevada" who somehow has something to do with all this.
You have to hand it to Vigalondo for not taking the easy way out; he piles it on early and often, with little regard for logic. And the main trouble with OPEN WINDOWS is that it's simply too busy; just when you thought the movie might not have enough going on, it suddenly has too much going on. The introduction of these other characters, and the multiple subplots they bring with them, is truly unwelcome, unnecessarily complicating an already-frantic narrative, and the camera dizzyingly swooping from one window to another in order to capture it all is ultimately burdensome to behold. The finale, when all the cards are on the table and we learn everyone's true motivations, is hectic and nonsensical in equal measure, not to mention just a little hilarious. (The big twist is real "Oh come on!" stuff.)
I'm willing to suspend disbelief during any movie if it's going about its business well, but OPEN WINDOWS is really pushing it; its many, many plot conveniences almost put it in the realm of comedy, as does its overall tone, which is borderline goofy. (I'm not so sure that was the original intent.) Vigalondo isn't able to get a handle on his wildly unraveling plot, so it's off the rails before you know it; what you're left to watch is a ludicrous experiment that unfortunately blows up in the director's face.
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