The Bedroom Window March 6, 2017
If you decide that its score, which sounds like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ aural weaknesses vomited on the background music of a better-than-usual porno, is going to define The Bedroom Window (1987) as a big-haired, throwaway 1980s thriller like I initially did, then consider yourself lucky. The movie’s big-haired and it’s thrilling and it was released in ‘87, all right, but being throwaway isn’t the name of its game. After the ugly synth ‘n’ jazz trumpeted combo disintegrates into the pulsating atmosphere of the feature, we find that its real mission is to present itself as a peachy neo-noir that walks and talks like the best of the Hitchcock “wrong man” pictures that helped define classic Hollywood.
Aside from casting slice of American cheese Steve Guttenberg as its hero, The Bedroom Window is a note-perfect genre riff, a riff unafraid of taking its time to ensure that the stakes get the chance to grow as high as Shaq’s POV. Here, Guttenberg is Terry Lambert, a businessman having an affair with his boss’s luscious French wife Sylvia (Isabelle Huppert). Following a typically humdrum office party, the illicit twosome heads back to Lambert's apartment to spend the rest of the evening between the sheets, enjoying each other’s company not so much out of a burning love but out of the excitement that comes with partaking in tawdry behavior.
But the night takes an unexpected turn when screams are heard outside the apartment and seen is the attempted murder of a young woman, Denise (Elizabeth McGovern). Thanks to Sylvia’s intervention, the crime is prevented from delving into tragedy. But because she and Lambert's relationship is more sexual than emotional, they’re reluctant to come forward to aid the police in finding the would-be murderer – throw in a helping hand and they’ll expose their relationship, which hardly means anything to either of them anyway.
After some discussion is it decided that Lambert, despite only seeing the last few seconds of the near lethal event, will be the one to come forward, the one to name names at the line-up and relay Sylvia’s story before a judge. But as it goes with any kind of deception, deception characterized by good intentions or otherwise, the trial uncovers the truth that there’s no way Terry could have been the one to see the crime take place, thus allowing for the release of the suspect and the putting in danger of the former and, especially, Sylvia. Only Denise knows the whole truth, and when Lambert eventually becomes the prime suspect in the case, she becomes a crucial figure in seeing justice through.
While it has a too-tidy ending that recalls the far-fetched coming together of one of Fred Jones’ hare-brained schemes to catch a bad guy, The Bedroom Window is otherwise an electric treat. This is a sharp, economic thriller that works with a formula (most notably consummated by 1954’s Rear Window) and still manages to find the sting in it. The suspense terse and the performances impressively able to sell the pulpy material, it can do no wrong. We’re immediately enraptured by its story, and writer/director Curtis Hanson (1992’s The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and 1997’s L.A. Confidential) knows how to keep our investment thriving.
Huppert, though out of her element, particularly complements the machinations: looking straight out of 1946, her thick accent accidentally makes it seem as though she’s emulating the presentational acting style of a bad soap opera, and that somehow summarizes the way The Bedroom Window is able to concentrate the sum of its parts to a particular (and particularly old) genre – being film noir – and rise the fun out of it once again. McGovern reminds one of the simultaneously competent and doe-eyed Anne Shirley, standing out as a damsel in distress who rids herself of her past victimhood by the film’s end.
Because the movie fails to tread on new ground, it’s imminent that The Bedroom Window be the hidden gem we escape in for 112 minutes only to rid ourselves of like a dirty T-shirt a day or so later. But there isn’t anything much wrong with turning into a glassy-eyed popcorn inhaler as long as the action in front of us is effective. Thankfully, the action in this movie is. B+