A righteous, genuine and emotionally precise movie, "Open Window," about what happens to a couple when the wife is raped, still goes down like medicine. While director- writer Mia Goldman's portrayal of the unhappy couple's crisis is probably all too accurate, the subject won't attract a very large theatrical audience. Cable may bite, given the star cast, but it will most likely be those outlets focusing on female issues.
Although directed by longtime editor Goldman ("Choose Me," "Silverado," "My Big Fat Greek Wedding") and beautifully shot on 35mm film by Denis Maloney, "Open Window " is predominantly an actor's movie. Joel Edgerton and Robin Tunney give difficult, nuanced and emotionally naked performances as Peter and Izzy, a couple who are facing career challenges, but always have each other -- at least until a stranger enters Izzy's photo studio one night and assaults her. As she falls apart, so does the marriage.
"Open Window" is uneven in temperament. The entrance of Cybill Shepherd as Izzy's audaciously self-centered mother Arlene is jarring. Shepherd, while giving a pretty funny performance, is far too broad and her entrance unsettles the low-key intensity generated by Edgerton and Tunney. Arlene is supposed to deliver a mood change and shift in rhythm, but what Shepherd gives is whiplash.
Similarly, Elliott Gould, as Izzy's father John, is too much of a known quantity to drop into a seething issue movie like "Open Window" without creating a distraction.
But Goldman's sense of rhythm is off in general. Certain scenes are wildly protracted, in an apparent attempt to imply the painful passage of time as Izzy fails to heal. The scenes that work the best -- for instance, Izzy's sessions with her therapist, played by Shirley Knight -- are immediate, contain sharp dialogue and allow the performers to play off each other adroitly.
Goldman also plays out the rape itself on an installment plan, glimpses of it growing longer and more detailed in flashback, as Izzy becomes more depressed and withdrawn. It feels unnecessary -- the point of the film, after all, is the aftermath of the crime, not the crime itself, so the brutal recreations feel unhealthy.
Camera (color), Denis Maloney; editor, Heather Persons; music, Cliff Eidelman; music supervisor, James Sall; production designer, Barbara Dunphy; set decorator, Lisa Alkofer; costume designer, Tabitha Jothnson; make-up, Noreen Wilkie; sound (Dolby), Edward Tise; sound designers, Robert Grieve, Joel Shryack, Yann Delpuech; visual effects, Mike Ocoboc; associate producer, Judy Rossi; assistant director, John Mattingly; casting, Mia Levinson. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Spectum), Jan. 21, 2006. Running time: 97 MIN.