Study Guide

Rear Window Genre

Genre

Mystery, Thriller, Romance, Comedy

Mysteries and thrillers are genre cousins, but they're not the same thing. A thriller uses the specific circumstances of a story to generate excitement or suspense. A mystery is simply a question that needs answers, which the characters go hunting for so we don't have to. Mysteries can be thrillers and vice versa, but they don't have to be.

Rear Window is closer to the mystery side of the equation than the thriller side. Did Thorwald murder his wife? Jeff has suspicions, but he doesn't know for sure. That's a mystery in its purest form; just because he's pretty sure he knows who did it doesn't mean he's right.

The thrills appear toward the end of the film, when Thorwald catches on to Jeff's little games and starts plotting some payback. Suddenly, Jeff loses the upper hand since he can't run away. That makes it easy for Thorwald to find him, ratcheting up the suspense and sliding the mystery a lot farther up the thriller scale.

Rear Window flirts with the romance genre as well, in the person of the lovely Lisa. In between playing Jeff's Gal Friday and trying to get him into the sack, she and Jeff talk about the differences between them, the challenges to being together, and the fact that they really do make a great couple. (Jeff is irritatingly unwilling to commit, in Shmoop's humble opinion, but no matter.) Romance flourishes, despite a few bumps in the road, and those darker vibes get tempered by a few gratifying scenes of Jeff and Lisa getting serious smooch time. In fact, some critics think that it's really a romance film—the murder is just a backdrop. (Source)

Even in his most sinister films, Hitchcock injects some comedy, and Rear Window is no exception. Most of that comes in the dialogue, which has some pricelessly witty lines (much of them courtesy of Stella), but you can also see it in some of the trials and travails of Jeff's neighbors. Not all of them are killers; everyone else seems to lead perfectly normal lives that Hitchcock enjoys lampooning from time to time.

The best example takes place in the last scene, when we see what all of these people are up to a short while later. There are some great gags in there: the newlyweds start to bicker while the va-va-voom Miss Torso welcomes home her pint-size, nerdy-looking true love. Heck, it's loads funnier than your average Adam Sandler comedy, and considering the film centers around a guy murdering his wife, that's saying something.

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