Rear Window (1954)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 3/21/21
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr

L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart) is a photojournalist who has been trapped in his apartment for several weeks tending to a broken leg. To combat boredom, he passes the time by spying on his neighbors and keeping track of their daily lives. One night, he witnesses what might be a murder in Raymond Burr's apartment. Jeff's friends think he's paranoid and delusional, and Burr has an airtight alibi. Eventually, his girlfriend Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) and his nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) start taking his rantings seriously and form their own theories on what happened in Burr's apartment, which leads to a tense confrontation.

Director Alfred Hitchcock is a master craftsman and the film is fascinating to watch. The entire movie takes place on one elaborate set, and just like Jeff, the audience is trapped in his apartment and can only see what Jeff sees outside his window. The massive and marvelous set is brilliantly realized, and each apartment has its own story and drama to tell. Jeff's neighbors are a quirky and colorful bunch, which is accentuated by the film's blazing Technicolor. Unfortunately, there are a handful of visual effects shots that spoil the illusion and break the suspension of disbelief, but those are simply artifacts from the time period and shouldn't be judged too harshly. It's a long film and the deliberately slow pacing can be extremely challenging. However, it's a testament to Hitchcock's skill that he manages to keep the viewer constantly engaged.

The performances are excellent and the characters are wonderfully constructed. While Jeff is the main protagonist and everything we see is from his point of view, he's a bit of an asshole and difficult to sympathize with and relate to. However, this may also be a reflection of the times and Hitchcock's own personal views on masculinity and gender politics. The real star of the film is Grace Kelly, who is strong, intelligent, cultured, compassionate, enthusiastic, stunningly beautiful, and hopelessly in love with Jeff. She represents the perfect woman from Hitchcock's perspective, and it's hard to argue with his vision. However, her perfection is also a point of contention and represents Hitchcock's cynical view that men and women are fundamentally incompatible. The film is actually more about the romantic conflict between Jeff and Lisa than the murder mystery, and even though she's the stronger character, Lisa ends up compromising at the end for the sake of their relationship. It's a disappointing outcome, as Jeff continues to be a jerk and hasn't evolved at all, which is another reflection of gender roles and social expectations at the time. Provided you can get through all of the uncomfortable relationship drama, "Rear Window" is a cinematic masterpiece that represents Alfred Hitchcock at his best.