A film review by: Witney Seibold
For what is ostensibly a mere teenage retread of “Rear Window,” “Disturbia is a surprisingly taut thriller. The camera doesn’t have the same kind of voyeur’s eye as in “Rear Window,” but director D.J. Caruso (“The Salton Sea,” “Taking Lives”) ups the ante by having the spying take place through a series of digital cameras, walkie-talkies, and cellular telephones. It does more than add an element that the MySpace generation can relate to, it gives us the impression that perhaps absorbing digital information gives us no power to control what we’re seeing.The set-up: In a flashback, we see that teenager Kale (Shia LaBeouf, an actor to be excited about) lost his father in a car wreck. One year later, he’s become a sullen underachiever, and, in a fit of rage, decks his Spanish teacher. He is not sorry, and is placed under house arrest, much to chagrin of his hard-working mother (Carrie-Anne Moss who adds a level of dimension to what could have otherwise been a usual hapless adult character) who makes sure he learns his lesson by cutting off his cable TV and videogame systems. His new life now consists of fighting off cabin fever. He ties a string around his lawn, exactly marking the limits dictated by his electronic anklet. He begins peeping at the neighbors, forming his own dramas. Two catch his eye the most: his hot new neighbor Ashley (Sarah Roemer) who conveniently goes swimming in her teeny bikini right in view of his window, and Mr. Turner (David Morse, as creepy as he wants to be) across the street who keeps odd hours, and is seen mysteriously dragging large bags out of his house late at night. Kale eventually befriends Ashley, and the two of them, assisted by Kale’s horny and amusing friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) begin to mark the patters of Mr. Turner’s comings and goings. Is he really a serial killer?
The film works well. The tight and swift direction keep the pace lively (the film only runs 100 minutes), and Shia LaBeouf’s performance really captures what it is to be an asshole teenager without making him into a sullen caricature. LaBeouf needs more roles (provided they aren’t in giant robot movies). David Morse does what he does best, and Carrie-Anne Moss is more than capable with the limited material. And, as I said, I liked the incorporation of modern technology into what was originally Jimmy Stewart’s long camera lens.
I was a little disturbed at the long, long close-up Maxim-Magazine shots of the be-swimsuited Ashley, though. Actress Sarah Roemer will be 23 years old this year, and Shia LaBeouf is himself 20, but as they are playing teenagers, the fetishization of her did feel a bit… unwholesome.
That said, Sarah Roemer is really hot.
This film has been #1 at the box office for a few weeks (until “Spider-Man 3” opened), and it’s an odd for such a low-concept, low-hype film to be so popular (perhaps it’s just the lack of anything else good in theaters now). But then, it’s good enough that I will let it cherish its memories of three weeks at #1.