Wednesday, March 05, 2008


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A Review of Disturbia
"Above and Beyond"

Disturbia is the teen suspense thriller that steps beyond its genre to bring a unique form of entertainment. When seventeen year-old Kale Brecht (Shia LaBeouf) punches his Spanish teacher for commenting on his dead father, the troubled teen is sentenced to three months house arrest. During this time, he must wear an ankle monitoring device to ensure that he stays within a hundred feet of his house. Carrie-Ann Moss plays LaBeouf's mother, Julie Brecht, and constantly says, "Clean up your room." When she finds Kale's room in a mess, she resorts to cutting the cable TV cord and cancelling his Xbox Live and iTunes accounts. With the absence of technology, Kale starts watching the neighbors through his windows. He observes Ashley Carlson (Sarah Roemer), the girl that just moved in next door, performing yoga. In addition, he sees a house wife having an affair and pre-teens watching porn. When Kale, his best friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo), and Ashley suspect Mr. Turner (David Morse) is a serial killer, they begin spying on him. Subsequently, Mr. Turner discovers he is being watched and the teens become caught up in an unforeseen circumstance.

Disturbia's director, D. J. Caruso, examines the issue of privacy in suburban life. The movie is a retelling of the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock film, Rear Window, in which L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart) and Lisa Carol Fremont (Grace Kelly) spy on suspected killer Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr). This film was based off the 1942 short story, It Had to Be Murder, by Cornell Woolrich. Nonetheless, Disturbia is a retelling of Rear Window for the high-tech generation, not a simple remake. LaBeouf does not try to be James Stewart for today's youth. He successfully plays a typical hormonal teenage boy who resorts to snooping. When Hitchcock's film debuted, American's were disillusioned. The public believed that everybody was respectable and trustworthy. In today's society, Americans believe it is their right to be suspicious of their neighbors. This mentality allows them to gain a sense of self-justification in knowing what goes on in their neighborhood.

In addition, Disturbia utilizes suburban elements from the movie American Beauty. In American Beauty a depressed father decides to turn his life around when he becomes obsessed with his daughter's friend. Both of these movies portray suburban life and its effects on relationships. For example in Disturbia, Ashley's father is having an affair. She says that her parents moved to the suburbs because, "City life had its temptations." This portrayal of suburban life is probable and teenagers whose parents are divorced could relate to her situation.

Consequently, Disturbia effectively appeals to America's youth through cultural references. For example, Kale plays Xbox Live and listens to his IPod. These technological references appeal to the young audience, who are able to associate with Kale's circumstances. The screen writers, Christopher Landon and Carl Ellsworth, did a superb job of depicting Kale and Ronnie as average teens. Kale drinks Red Bulls, builds a tower of Twinkies, and puts on a Ramones shirt. These are average activities a teenage boy might do over the summer. LaBeouf's acting is exceptional not only in the delivery of his lines, but also in his facial expressions. When his father dies, his stunned expression is remarkably realistic. However, Aaron Yoo provides outstanding comic relief. For instance, Ronnie brakes into Mr. Turner's car he says to Kale, "This is a lot harder than it looks on the Internet." Yoo and LaBeouf perform as exceedingly realistic best friends with their casual buddy dialogue.

On the other hand, Roemer's acting is not as strong as the other characters. In some of her scenes, she does not look scared enough given the situation. Also, the screenwriters were not as successful with Roemer's character, Ashley, who does not completely depict the average teenage girl. She does make cliché girl comments such as, "I love her shoes." Yet, she flaunts around in a bikini and climbs to her roof to read which is not typical of the average suburban teen. Carrie-Ann Moss does a better job with her role as Julie Brecht. Her scenes are few but adequate enough for the audience to understand her love and frustration towards her son. Undoubtedly, the best acting is produced by David Morse. He is said to have not talked to LaBeouf during the production of the movie to enable him to immerse himself in his character's mind. His calm tone of voice and precise delivery of ambiguous dialogue is guaranteed to keep the audience guessing. Mr. Turner snickers as he states, "So now you know you're not the only one who's watching." The screenwriters had exceptional dialogue to give the character a sinister ambiance that is essential in an impressive suspense thriller.

There are several things that Disturbia does not accurately portray. Although the setting is the conventional suburb, it is improbable that numerous neighbors do not have adequate blinds. Kale is able to pick up the binoculars and look into several homes with unrealistic ease. When Kale and Ashley spy on Mr. Turner, Kale states, "Only in Disturbia. Where else are you gonna get this kind of entertainment?" This mentality is anticipated of teenagers who have grown up watching reality television. Furthermore, this statement depicts their immaturity and lack of respect for privacy that could be expected of some preteens, but not of teens their age. There are also flaws in the continuality of the movie. For instance, when Kale is tiding up his room he throws a shirt on top of the tower of Twinkies, but in the next two scenes the Twinkie tower is uncovered. In addition, Kale puts stickers on his ankle monitor, but in the next scene there are not stickers on the device.

Although there are flaws in the movie, it does move beyond the genre of a teen suspense thriller to also include aspects of comedy, romance, and drama. Typical teen thrillers tend to have lots of blood and gore, but this movie appeals to the audience's suspense factor instead of showing blood gushing everywhere. The music adds to the suspense, because it is successfully positioned during moments of high tension. The suspenseful music allows the audience to bite their nails and remain on the edge of their seats. Comedy is present, when Ronnie makes witty remarks during moments of suspense. The movie displays the romance element through the cat and mouse relationship between Kale and Ashley. Finally, in scenes with Kale and his mother, the dialogue is especially dramatic. By adding several genres into one movie, Disturbia goes above and beyond the average teen thriller to establish a film that appeals to today's youth.