Rear Window

AFI Rank: #41
Year Released: 1954
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Actors: James Stewart, Grace Kelly

Rear Window, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is well deserving of its #41 spot on the AFI top 100 listing. It is suspenseful and interesting even over 50 years later. It touches on issues we face in our current times. And, perhaps more amazingly, it manages to pass the Bechdel test, something that few AFI movies manage to do! It has two strong, named female characters who talk to each other about a topic other than men. Most movies fail this simple test. In Rear Window, Hitchcock provides equal strength and time to both the females and males in the story line.

Stewart is a photographer stuck in a wheelchair, resigned to peering out his windows at his neighbors. In our modern times this might seem a casual thing. Heck, we know the second-by-second details of our far off friends thanks to Twitter and Facebook. However, in the 50s this was considered less of a normal thing to do. He's even scolded by people around him for intruding on their privacy. Amazingly, we really do come to care about these people around him, even though they don't have names. The sad, lonely woman who eats alone and gets roughed up by a guy she brings home. The newlywed couple who goes from bliss to bickering. The loving couple with their cute little dog.

Even when Stewart gets concerned about an invalid wife who seems to go missing, he's still being caught up in all the dramas around him. The song-writing guy and his piano. The ballerina with her bevy of admirers. The whole courtyard is fascinating.

I love how Kelly shows her strength and surprises him with her independence. I also cringe when her quite astute observations are dismissed as "women's intuition" - as if they are not based on logic.

I do find the ending to be a bit contrived. The killer was an extremely logical, methodical man who planned out every last detail of what he was doing. He knew there were multiple people aware of what was going on. Why in the world would he try to kill just one of them? Surely that would prove beyond a shadow of a doubt his guilt? Why not take off to safety? To me that's the one false note in this story. They needed a more rational reason behind what he does at the end.

Still, a great story with a wealth of details. This demonstrates quite clearly the power of creating a rich atmosphere for a story. So many other movies have throwaway background characters who have little to distinguish them. Here we have a rich array of characters who we really care about - and when the ballerina's "not a GQ model" boyfriend comes home to her, and she clearly adores him, it's richly fulfilling.

Highly recommended.

AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100