review | rear window {1954}

Rear Window.png“We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms.  What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change.” – Stella

My good friend Eva over at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness is having an Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon in honor of the birthday of man himself!  (Happy birthday, Mr. Hitchcock!)  I’m a little late, but I wanted to review Rear Window, my favorite Hitchcock film, for the occasion.

So why review Rear Window?  It stars my favorite actor, one of my favorite actresses, and includes two of my favorite elements of story – fiction and suspense.  Thus, it lands a place on my Favorite Movies of All Time list.  I saw it for the first time a few years ago and knew I wanted to review it when Eva made her announcement.  I’ve been crazy busy, so I’ve had to watch it in multiple sittings, but watching it again reminded me of how absolutely brilliant it is.

The Story

RW“Professional photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries breaks his leg while getting an action shot at an auto race. Confined to his New York apartment, he spends his time looking out of the rear window observing the neighbors. He begins to suspect that a man across the courtyard may have murdered his wife. Jeff enlists the help of his high society fashion-consultant girlfriend Lisa Freemont and his visiting nurse Stella to investigate.” (from IMDb)

The film opens with shades rising on Jeff’s titular rear window, accompanied by the opening music, literally the only sound used in the film that isn’t diegetic – that is, not in-world.  A quick pan of the camera on the courtyard outside introduces us to all we need to know about the backdrop of the story before Hitchcock drops us in.  From there, he spends thirty minutes establishing the characters, something he can do because the film itself is two hours long.  Although the beginning (especially the first thirty minutes of world/storybuilding) is a bit long, it’s crucial to the story.  And, as always with Hitchcock, everything introduced in that initial thirty minutes is essential to the plot.

(Here, I usually put a trailer for whatever movie I’m reviewing.  Since older movies have stupidly long trailers that give up literally the entire plot – even more so than trailers do nowadays – here’s a fan-made “modern” trailer.  The music doesn’t work because there’s no soundtrack in the film {see my above comment about diegetic sound), but I love how this trailer was edited.)

The Cast and Characters

RW2L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) is a very interesting protagonist because the audience is drawn into what he’s doing without fully agreeing with it.  He’s stuck in his apartment all day due to a broken leg, so he’s obviously bored after five weeks of it.  When he starts spying on his neighbors, both Lisa and Stella question his motives until he convinces them that something suspicious is going on.  He can’t convince his detective friend, though, who thinks he’s insane.  Jeff is gruff, yet sweet underneath.  A little snoopy, but genuinely cares for his neighbors.  When a sad single lady in the apartment across from his puts out wine for herself and an imaginary suitor, he toasts her back, wordlessly conveying his compassion for her in a way that makes us completely fall in love with him.  Jeff’s also a very good freelance photographer, which adds to the tension between him and Lisa.  He thinks she, with all her society-seducing ways, won’t be able to handle his life on the road.  “You’re not meant for that kind of life,” he tells her.  She, on the other hand, completely disagrees.  She asks him if he doesn’t think people can change, adding, “I’m in love with you.  I don’t care what you do for a living, I’d just like to be part of it somehow.”  The strain between these characters adds to the overall stress in the plot.

And Jimmy Stewart… what can I say?  He’s perfect.  Once, when I was in eighth grade, I did a research paper on him.  I’ve been in love with him ever since.  He’ll always be one of my favorite actors of all time (and I don’t say that lightly).

RW3“You’ve got this whole town in the palm of your hand,” Jeff tells Lisa Fremont, assuring her that she can get any man she chooses.  “Not quite, it seems,” she quietly replies before leaving him alone.  She’s a society girl down to her last hairpin, with everything and everyone at her fingertips… except the only man she really wants.  She also defies the stereotype of “pretty girl,” climbing walls and digging in the dirt and literally risking her life to get down to the bottom of the mystery – and to prove to Jeff that she can handle anything, most of all his life as a photographer.

Jeff describes Lisa as “perfect, as always.”  This can also describe Grace Kelly, who is a flawless goddess.  I’ve seen her in a dozen movies, and loved every single one.  She embodies this timelessly classic persona that very few actresses have, the few including Julie Andrews, Audrey Hepburn, and Scarlett Johansson.

RW4As far as the more minor characters go, Thelma Ritter as Stella, Jeff’s insurance nurse, adds the matronly “Do you really know what you’re getting into and what the consequences are???” advice, Wendell Corey as Detective Lieutenant Thomas Doyle is hilariously sarcastic, Raymond Burr as Lars Thorwald is just… *shivers* SO GOOD, and the actors who play the other neighbors – Miss Lonelyhearts, the pianist, the dancer, the couple on the fire escape who own the dog, the old lady sculptor, the newlywed couple, Miss Torso – all play their parts exceptionally well, conveying through their actions what they can’t do through words (because they basically don’t have any lines).

Plus, all of the costumes are just fabulous.  Edith Head is a legend, and everything she designed for this movie (especially Lisa’s green suit and sleeveless shirt which I need NOW) is stunning.

Objectionable Content

RW5This entire movie circulates around a very dark subject, a murder that Jeff doesn’t witness but is heavily implied.  Because of that, it’s very intense – one of the most intense movies I’ve ever seen, actually.  (Definitely the most stressful out of the four-ish Hitchcock movies I’ve seen.)  When we first watched it, my then-12-year-old sister literally vaulted over our couch as she was running out of the room during the most stressful part.  There isn’t any language, but there’s a slightly sensual kissing scene (and it’s implied that Lisa spends the night at Jeff’s apartment).  All in all, though, it’s a very light PG-13.

Bottom Line

RW1This is an amazing movie, period.  It was nominated for four Oscars, and is #40 on IMDb’s Top Rated Movies list.  Plus, it’s just a classic.  If you haven’t seen it, grab a pillow and some popcorn (and then a vacuum for when the popcorn flies in the air as you vault over the couch like my sister did), and watch it.

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11 thoughts on “review | rear window {1954}

  1. You know, when I saw that first photograph (with Jeff peeking over the top of his binoculars), I honestly thought it was Gregory Peck. That’s how little I know about classic Hollywood actors 🙂

    Great review! It sounds like a really . . . um . . . Suspenseful movie? 😉

  2. Great post! Rear Window is so good and as every elements to be one of my favourite Hitchcock’s films : directed by Hitchcock, my favourite movie director, starring both my favourite actor and my favourite actress, awesome supporting cast, a great screenplay (that’s something very important for me) and awesome costumes (I love both cinema and fashion!) I think it’s the Hitchcock’s film I’ve seen the more often, and I’m never tired of it. Saw it twice on big screen! It was pretty cool 🙂

  3. Oh, I loved this review! I like pretty much everything you post, but seeing you talk about an old movie was unique and awesome. ❤ Don't have time for a long comment, but I agree with everything you said. *fist-pump*

    ~Eva

  4. Pingback: the Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon 2016 wrap-up! | coffee, classics, & craziness

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