Movie Review: Indie drama gives us a “Glimpse” of the Surveillance state’s private sector excesses

If there’s one thing the pandemic lockdown taught us, it’s that some filmmakers had ideas that turn the restrictions and limitations of that time into dramatic scenarios.

“Glimpse” combines disparate, isolated characters, hidden camera CCTV footage and rising paranoia about just what “they” know about us and can do to invade our privacy for a short, not remotely satisfying thriller. It’s pretty good as a proof-of-concept, evidence of just what sort of compelling story you can tell with self-isolated actors, limited locations and a clever conceit to hang it all on. But that’s all it is.

Three people (Ashley Nicole Black, Erin Darke and Raúl Esparza) work from home, staring at their computers as they watch — via CCTV — the lives unfolding in what appear to be three ordinary if somewhat upscale homes.

One couple, a real estate agent (Carrie Preston and Michael Emerson) are sweating out his latest job interview in their suburban designer McMansion. A professional woman (Krysta Rodriguez) is trying to control her temper at her live-in lover’s (Van Hughes) guitar-picking indolence. And a mother (Alysia Reiner) patiently helps her kid with Spanish homework until her husband (David Alan Bashe) comes home and they can make out like horny teenagers — again.

Their “spies” are eating delivered food, playing with toys, rolling their eyes at their boring jobs monitoring these folk, whom they find themselves shouting at their screens about as their subjects accept flawed relationships and bore the hell out of those “watching” them.

The “spies” also swap phone calls.

“I thought you said this was legal.

“I’m not arguing ETHICS with somebody who’s doing the same UNETHICAL thing I’m doing!”

They have only the vaguest notion of what they’re doing, and they have little idea who this rich, leisure-loving tyrant (Janet McTeer) is whom they’re working for.

And then, a masked “intruder” slips into one of those houses, just out of sight of the couple one spy is supposed to be monitoring. That sets off a whole chain of increasingly frantic calls as the underlings try to come up with an “ethical” answer to this dilemma.

You’re spying on people who might be in danger. Do you warn them? And if so, how?

That promising thriller or comic thriller premise is pretty much frittered away by TV veteran (“Smash,” “Law & Order,” “NYPD Blue”) Theresa Rebeck, serving as writer-director here.

She has a few interesting characters, a competent cast, decent (Georgia?) locations and a hot-button “issue” subject with serious dramatic or comic dramatic possibilities. But the film just lies there.

Suspense is frittered away, jokes aren’t landed, the spied-upon underreact in mostly bizarre, uninteresting and unnatural ways to the threats that become increasingly obvious to them.

And the resolution, the over-explained but inadequate “explanation” for all this wrongdoing and manipulation is never more than underwhelming.

McTeer has a nice “You can’t quit, I OWN you menace,” but there’s little pathos to the victims or ethical dilemma guilt to the perpetrators.

Rebeck has her proof-of-concept. She just doesn’t do enough with it.

Rating: unrated, profanity

Cast: Janet McTeer, Carrie Preston, Alysia Reiner, Ashley Nicole Black, Raúl Esparza, Michael Emerson, David Alan Bashe, Krysta Rodriguez, Van Hughes and John Preston 

Credits: Scripted and directed by Theresa Rebeck. A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:14

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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