SXSW FILM 2014
By Don Simpson | March 21, 2014
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Writer: Nacho Vigalondo
Starring: Elijah Wood, Sasha Grey, Neil Maskell, Nacho Vigalondo, Iván González, Adam Quintero
Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey) is an up-and-coming actress whose sex appeal is outweighed only by her attractiveness to tabloid media. Cast in the bitchy celebrity mold of Kristen Stewart and Lindsay Lohan, Jill is seen by her fans as a mere sex object with no other cultural significance. As the sole proprietor of one of the world’s preeminent Jill Goddard fanboy blogs, Nick (Elijah Wood) is one of her biggest fans. Nick has traveled to Austin to collect a prize — a dinner date with Jill — that he won in a contest from another blog. As he sits in his hotel room watching the live feed from a Fantastic Fest junket for Jill’s upcoming action film, Nick begins hearing an authoritative voice emanating from his laptop speakers. The voice belongs to Chord (Neil Maskell), a presumably omnipotent being who knows and sees everything thanks to his uncanny technological prowess. The next thing Nick knows, Chord has taken control of his laptop, transforming the screen into a menagerie of open windows to Jill’s personal life.
Like most bloggers, Nick is a shy and socially-awkward guy who enjoys the anonymous veil that the Internet provides him. While Nick is perfectly comfortable posting second generation screen-grabbed photos of Jill on his blog, the unbridled access that Chord has given him makes Nick incredibly uncomfortable. Even Nick’s perverse voyeuristic tendencies have their limits. Channeling Pat Healy’s maniacally powerful disembodied voice in Compliance, Chord knows how to manipulate Nick like his own personal puppet. As the scenario grows increasingly uncomfortable, Chord always finds ways to convince Nick to continue onward. Soon, Nick finds himself in a scenario that he must force Jill to abide by his innermost sexual desires in order to save her life.
Choosing to begin Open Windows with teaser footage from a melodramatic action flick, writer-director Nacho Vigalondo hints at the stilted acting and ridiculous narrative twists that we can expect from his third feature. Completely abandoning the unbridled naturalism that made his first two features — Timecrimes and Extraterrestrial — so unique in their respective time travel and alien invasion genres, Vigalondo opts to throw plausibility and realism out the [open] window. Vigalondo skillfully tells the majority of the film by way of Nick’s desktop, thus allowing him to squeeze layers of narrative action into the frame. Vigalondo utilizes the multitude of photos, videos and pop-ups as a means to manipulate and distract the audience, blurring the storyline with red herrings galore. Then, once the relentless barrage of plot twists and identity reversals commence, the plot disintegrates into an incoherent and entirely implausible mess. Open Windows is basically just a game for Vigalondo to see how far he can push the audience’s patience. All the while, it is impossible to deny the goofy-as-all-hell entertainment value provided by the overtly preposterous plot.