Open Windows, the English-language debut of Timecrimes director Nacho Vigalondo, is Rear Window for 2014 -- only instead of one neighbor spying on another apartment building, everyone is spying on everyone everywhere every second. As a thriller, it doesn't always work. As a technical exercise, it's impressive. As a statement about celebrity and privacy in an era (era) in which we're all on camera all the time, it's fascinating.
Elijah Wood plays Nick Chambers, a celebrity blogger obsessed with actress Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey). Nick wins a contest to have dinner with Jill while she's in Austin promoting her latest movie (at a festival not unlike the recently-held Fantastic Fest; Scott Weinberg even has a cameo in the film), but Jill backs out much to Nick's disappointment. It's then that he's contacted by Jill's "manager" Chord (Neil Maskell), who hooks Nick up with access into all of Jill's devices -- cell phone, laptop, you name it -- so he can spy on her via webcam. Before long, though, Nick begins to realize that things aren't quite what they seem. Unfortunately for both him and Jill Goddard, it may be too late.
What Vigalondo is really talking about is our total disregard for privacy nowadays, and the way we've surrendered what little bit we might have had by surrounding ourselves with technology and cameras -- literal windows into our lives that can be accessed by anyone at anytime. Nick knows that what he's doing is wrong but he goes along with it anyway. Why? Because he feels he's owed it. Because Jill Goddard isn't a person to him, just an image to be fetishized. Because he knows that he can't be caught looking. Because it's easy. Because he can. It's all the same kind of thinking that led to the recent celebrity nude photo theft, in which famous women had their lives and bodies splashed all across the internet by assholes who stopped thinking of them as people with feelings and privacy that should be respected. The movie was made well before the massive celeb hacking took place (it premiered at SXSW last March), but Vigalondo predicted all of it.
And then there is the casting of the two leads, which might be the best thing about the movie. Elijah Wood is good, doing the same kind of cornered everyman he played in Grand Piano last year. I'm more excited that he's in the movie at all, because it's yet another chapter in his evolution as the unsung hero of the independent genre movie. His participation helps movies like this get made, while his production company SpectreVision literally makes movies like this. I love this phase of his career.
The casting of Sasha Grey lets us know that Vigalondo is really up to something. As a former star of adult films, Grey is no stranger to being watched on the internet, or to having men obsess over her and view her not as a human but as something they can jerk off to. In Open Windows, she's a famous genre actress who may or may not have a sex tape about to leak; either way, it's being used to promote a movie. A scene in which she's told to strip over a webcam and the way the moment interacts with Grey's own career "baggage" is fascinating; hers is stunt casting in a way, but in the best way because a) the casting informs the role and b) Grey is good in the part). I've been rooting for Sasha Grey to break into the mainstream since her role in Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience, because she's someone who has always taken full control of her career and made no apologies for it and because I'd like to think that a country that spends as much money on porn as we do isn't so hypocritical as to act like a former adult film star isn't good enough to star in other movies. The lines are all blurred now anyway, so I'd hate to see Grey punished for doing a different kind of acting before this. I like that she's choosing genre projects, too; between this and Would You Rather, she's showing good, interesting taste.