“We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their house and look in for a change.” —Jeff’s nurse
This observation that we are becoming a nation of homebound voyeurs may have been true in the 1950s. And it’s definitely true today.
We don’t even need to go out to the front porch to watch our neighbors anymore. We sit on our couches and spy on people using WIFI.
I know we are all supposed to stay in now, but we shouldn’t ignore the consequences of a homebound society. When you go out and interact with strangers on the street, at church, or at the bar, you find kindness and kinship with your fellow man. When you sit at home on your iPhone, you find hatred and judgment. Social media does not want you to experience peace, love, and calm self-reflection.
Alfred Hitchcock shows us that a good guy can turn bad if he sits home long enough. The first half of “Rear Window” is splendid – intelligent and insightful.
Jimmy Stewart stars as Jeff Jeffries. Jeff was an adventurous photojournalist until one of his work adventures left him with a broken leg. When the film begins, he’s been home for two straight months and it is wearing on his self-esteem and his sanity.
Jeff sits at the rear window of his New York City apartment and watches his neighbors. One night, Mrs. Thorwald suddenly disappears. And Mr. Thorwald is acting suspicious.
Jeff immediately concludes that Thorwald is a murderer. Jeff’s Private Investigator pal learns that Mrs. Thorwald is safely upstate but Jeff can’t let it go. Jeff’s ridiculously great girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) wants a romantic date, but all Jeff can do is talk about the evidence against Thorwald.
Lisa has little choice but to join Jeff in his quest to build a case against the alleged killer.
Hitchcock has the makings of an amazing film: a study in the folly of judging others and the self-destructiveness of obsession.
Then – around an hour into the picture – Hitchcock lets us down. [Big Spoiler Alert]. It turns out that Thorwald really is guilty.
No no no. This makes “Rear Window” a much less interesting film and it undermines all of Hitchcock’s themes.
Suddenly, Jeff isn’t a lousy boyfriend: he’s a clever sleuth who is bringing his girlfriend in to crack the big case. Suddenly, obsessively spying on neighbors isn’t a vice: it is the key to uncovering truth and bringing killers to justice.
“Rear Window” is overrated and dramatically unsatisfying. Even worse, it condones the sin of voyeurism. Alfred Hitchcock seems to suggest that you may be a hero for giving up on your own life and judging other people on Facebook and Twitter all day.