The Bedroom Window (1987) / Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for nudity, sexuality, violence, and language
Running time: 112 min.

Cast: Steve Guttenberg, Elizabeth McGovern, Isabelle Huppert, Paul Shenar, Carl Lumbly, Wallace Shawn, Frederick Coffin, Brad Greenquist, Maury Chaykin
Director: Curtis Hanson
Screenplay: Curtis Hanson (based on the novel, "The Witnesses", by Anne Holden)

Review published July 28, 2007

Steve Guttenberg (Police Academy 2, Police Academy 3) stars as Terry Lambert, a businessman who is having an affair with his boss's alluring French wife, Sylvia Wentworth (Huppert, Comedy of Innocence).  After their latest coupling, they are startled by a scream coming from the courtyard outside.  Rushing to the window, Sylvia shrieks as she sees an assault on a woman at the hands of a redhead male with pasty white skin.  However, she can't report it, as she desperately doesn't want her affair to become known by her wealthy husband, Collin (Shenar, Scarface).  Terry thinks he's doing the honorable thing by pretending that it was he who saw the actual assault, as he suspects that there may be a connection with it and the series of murders in the area.  However, circumstances lead to Terry himself being implicated in the murder, and the only person willing to help is Denise (McGovern, Ordinary People), the victim he has been trying to assist.

This early Curtis Hanson (LA Confidential, Wonder Boys) work exists as a late-1980s attempt to rekindle the Hitchcockian thriller.  As such, it actually works quite well during the first hour of set up, even without vaunted Hitchcock stars like Cary Grant or Ingrid Bergman to elevate it.  Steve Guttenberg, known primarily for lowbrow comedies, acquits himself quite well in a straight dramatic role.  While you won't see anything in his performance to suggest an Oscar-worthy talent, he does manage to exude a sense of charm and romantic hero that translates well into a more subtle performance, and we do identify with his plight.  Unlike others who have treaded down the same path, Hanson doesn't copy Hitchcock's camerawork or artistic style so much as try to recapture the allure of the "innocent man accused" storylines the Master had been so enamored of throughout his career.

Hanson's adaptation of Anne Holden's novel, "The Witnesses", falters substantially in the second half, beginning its slide into mediocrity with a meeting in an opera house that is far more contrived and silly than anything that had come before.  The romantic consummation between Terry and Denise feels rather abbreviated and forced, with her getting Terry to have sex with her out of a psychological need more so than any heartfelt desire.  The film's final act, in which Denise decides to try to get the killer to expose himself for what he is to the cops, is beyond ludicrous, and would do absolutely nothing to exonerate Terry from being a suspect the way it plays out.  De Palma did a far more effective job of this plot device in Blowout, another Hitchcockian homage that actually builds on being more, rather than being content in just rehashing for genre fans.

The Bedroom Window may have some major flaws, but the one thing it doesn't do is lose your attention, even when it dips in plausibility.  In addition to the aforementioned surprising turn by Guttenberg, it features alluring performances by a younger Isabelle Huppert as the French mistress, and an earthy, but still sexy companion played well by McGovern.  While it may never remotely come close to rivaling Hitchcock, for a more modern twist on a classic formula, The Bedroom Window is worth looking into.

Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo