Imagine, if you will Brian DePalma snorting a package of Pixie Stix mixed with high grade amphetamines, visiting a trampoline park for a few hours, then bumping his head on a hard surface, incurring a massive concussion minutes before stepping behind the camera. Go ahead and take a moment, I'm not going anywhere. Got it? Great. Now you have an inkling of what you're in store for when you pop in Nacho Vilgalondo's new thriller Open Windows. Vigalondo brings massive doses of fun and energy to the film, but it is so manic and travels in such off kilter directions, that it falls off the rails when you pause to give it even the barest of rational thought.
Nick (Elijah Wood) runs an unofficial fan site for Hollywood starlet Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey in a nice bit of stunt casting). After winning a contest promoting her latest film, Nick finds himself in a plush Austin hotel, live streaming a sneak peek and Q&A for her latest work and waiting to meet her for dinner. It's at this precise moment Nick is contacted on his computer by a mysterious stranger who tells him the contest is a lie, Jill is not who she seems, and if Nick doesn't follow his every instruction precisely he will be in terrible danger.
Open Windows is Vigalondo's tribute to Rear Window, with the proceedings confined to Wood's laptop screen. On the surface this would seem to constrain the action allowable on the film, but Vigalondo makes constant use of all the communication technologies available from surveillance cameras, to face to face chats, cell phone hacking, mapping and more to infuse Open Windows with plenty of energy.
The problem is the film is so ridiculous on the surface it is almost insulting. As Nick, Elijah Wood gives the character enough likeable charm to not come off as a creepy stalker, but why he wouldn't shut down his laptop at the first sign of trouble, let alone contact the agency that set up the cancelled promotion after flying cross country for it makes no sense. The silliness only escalate from there with Nick engaging in deceit, blackmail, tasering and much more against his better judgement. Sasha Grey is-well, it's pretty funny watching Grey playing a role that finds her getting antsy about a leaked masturbation video given her real life past work. That said, Grey has all the charisma of a wet paper bag.
Despite a myriad of flaws, Open Windows delivers a fun watch precisely because of the insanity Vigalondo delivers. When most directors pay homage to DePalma or Hitchcock, they take a turn for the two self serious, seemingly unable to grasp the impish delight Hitchcock had at deconstructing his tales of mystery. Nacho is fully aware of the ridiculous nature of his work and dives headlong into the camp aspects. At times the film feels like something crafted by a twelve year old in dire need of some ADHD medicine, but at least it comes from the mind of an intelligent twelve year old. Elijah Wood delivers the everyman hero for its audience, in the same way Hitchcock used Jimmy Stewart time and again. Wood is your prototypical Nebbish hipster that exists just outside the margins of the pop culture forces of nature he fetishizes in his blog. It's easy to see how he could get sucked in to their world of intrigue while he remains just uncomfortable enough in his actions where the audience recognizes enough of their own reflection in him to root him on.
There's a reason why weed and hard alcohol exist in this otherwise miserable world, and it's because these mind altering substances allow one to better enjoy and appreciate films like Open Window.