Disturbia - If You're Going to Ape Hitchcock Make Sure You Have the Chops
| Disturbia is a loose remake of Rear Window, made for a generation that, I guess, isn’t sophisticated enough to relate to a movie that wasn’t made in their lifetime. The film works well in some ways and in other ways fails miserably. It’s too bad that Disturbia fails most when it’s trying to be a thriller. Unfortunately for us, Disturbia’s main goal is to be a thriller.
It starts out okay, if not fairly simple. A young man looses his father in a car crash and ends up struggling to cope. This culminates in him assaulting a teacher and he’s put on house arrest. The film is pretty week here as it’s all clichés; the dad is perfect and their relationship is wonderful (certainly not very real), the teacher is an ass who totally deserves to get slugged, and the kid is distant and disengaged although not enough to make his motivations believable. The other part that’s hard to believe is that he’s removed from all the modern gadgets that entertain kids and is forced to look out his windows. A teenager paying attention to the world around him? Come on!
Disturbia would fall apart right away with this weak and predictable plotting if it wasn’t for the charisma and talent of Shia LeBeouf. He is a major talent in the making and I can see why Spielberg is snatching him up. He’s got an everyman kind of face but an extraordinary believability to him, even in such an exaggerated plot like this.
With LeBeouf in the lead, we get settled in to watch him adjust to a summer stuck in the house. This part is where the movie triumphs. He struggles to find ways of amusing himself and although in reality he would be spending most of his time masturbating, he ends up actually engaging the community around him including developing a relationship with the neighbourhood hottie. Again, unbelievable but Disturbia does a good job of investing us in this. Maybe it’s LeBeouf’s talent that makes it all seem a bit more real than it should be.
But then the film remembers its main plot and suddenly we have a murderous neighbour who is on to the fact that our hero is on to him. The film falls into every teenage thriller cliché out there. The final supposedly suspenseful chase scene even has LeBeouf fall into a watery pit full of bodies. Come on! How dumb do you think we are?
What made Read Window great is the way it explores our paranoias and the way we get around our own morals to justify violations of privacy. Certainly it’s not fair to compare Disturbia’s director DJ Caruso (Two For the Money) to Hitchcock but it was Hitchcock’s hints (just hints mind you, he didn’t need to whack us over the head with it) into the darker side of our desires that made Read Window what it was. You actually believed it could have all been in Jimmy Stewart’s head right up until the end. In Disturbia there’s never any doubt who’s bad and who’s good.
Disturbia is filled with fake outs, obvious miscues, stock “one note” characters and simple ideas about good and evil. It never gets deep into our psyches. It just tries to go “boo!” That might work for the adolescent crowd but I’m too old to fall for that and it takes more to thrill me.
Okay, I will admit it's a better reinterpretation than Guess Who was of Guess Whose Coming to Dinner but that's not saying much.
Still, here’s hoping that LaBeouf has a great career ahead of him. He shows a lot of potential here and if you are going to watch it, check it out just to see a future star in the making.