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In Secret - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
In Secret
Directing: C+
Acting: B-
Writing: C
Cinematography: B+
Editing: C+

In Secret is based on a novel called Therese Racquin by Émile Zola, and since I never read (or even heard of) it, all I could do was wonder if the book is as trashy. Given it's apparently a classic novel from the 19th Century, I can only assume it's more nuanced.

"Nuanced" is one way not to describe this film adaptation. First-time feature director Charlie Stratton could stand a lesson or two in refinement. Or at least the art of finding actors who can speak with convincing accents.

Apparently, this family is French. Taking a page from countless other films, for American audiences, they speak English with British accents -- ostensibly. The central character, Thérèse Raquin (Martha Marcy May Marlene's Elizabeth Olsen), is played by a Californian whose native accent easily cuts through whatever efforts the voice coach (was there one?) may have made. And as much as we all love Jessica Lange, who plays her selfish aunt Madame Raquin, the same could be said of her. Tom Felton as Camille, at least, speaks with his natural accent, although it's a little strange to realize you're watching Malfoy from the Harry Potter films, all grown up with brown hair and looking a little gross as the sickly first cousin Thérèse is forced to marry. Oscar Isaac as Laurent, the man with whom Thérèse embarks on a torrid love affair, is the only one who disappears into his role, proving his own talents to be rare in their ability to rise above the material he has to work with.

In other words, In Secret is kind of all over the place. It is very preoccupied with Thérèse's sexuality, as opposed to her mere passion. Early on we see her masturbatory pelvic grinding against the ground as she secretly watches a shirtless man mowing grass with a scythe. She even has a brief moment of trying to seduce Camille, to which he is oblivious. In fact, well into their marriage, Camille is bizarrely sexless, and while certainly there are some few men out there like that, the movie takes no time to examine what an anomaly it is. Instead, it merely serves as the jumping point for Thérèse's affair, because for some reason, Thérèse just has this insatiable sexual appetite.

Many movies are made with the best intentions but for myriad reasons turn to shit in the filmmaking process. It can be impossible to know who to blame, and for all we know, the script as read by all these otherwise talented actors might have been great. In Secret isn't shit exactly; it's just a bit lame. Its greatest achievement is in its relatively pretty cinematography. That alone can't ever work well enough to make a movie worth watching.

It wasn't boring, I'll give it that. The whole story hinges around Laurent's decision to kill Camille to get him out of the way of his and Thérèse's relationship and eventual marriage, for which they have to wait until a reasonable period of grief is put on for show. So, brown-haired Malfoy bites it maybe halfway through the movie, although we get a couple shots of his blue-puffy drowned face. Naturally, the whole scenario puts a damper on the passion between Thérèse and Laurent, and their best-laid plans are complicated by an understandably depressed Madame Raquin. Then she suffers a stroke, and as guilt mounts inside of Thérèse and they act as caretakers for Madame, tensions rise within her new marriage. They begin to bicker in ways that reveal details of Camille's death in front of Madame, who understands but can't communicate. Except apparently for a surprisingly well-penned incriminating message on a wood floor using ink with the end of her cane. Did I mention this movie gets a little ridiculous?

At least the ending is a total surprise, going a long way toward redemption for a movie so oddly detached from the depth of swirling emotions on display. It doesn't quite go the distance, however. In Secret had the potential to be something much more compelling, but instead it skims over anything that could have lent it any genuine gravitas. There's a reason period movies like this end up with February release dates -- because if they are not quite terrible, they are at least forgettable. Wait, what were we talking about?

in secret

Overall: C+
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