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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Movie Review - In Secret

In Secret (2014)
Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Oscar Isaac, Tom Felton, and Jessica Lange
Directed by Charlie Stratton
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

We have a tendency to think that just because something was written centuries ago, there's an inherent heft and gravity to it.  Émile Zola's 1867 novel Thérèse Raquin is the basis for first-time director Charlie Stratton's In Secret and if the film is any indication, the book Thérèse Raquin could very well be the basis for modern-day soap operas seeing as how cinematically this is melodramatic to the nth degree.

Elizabeth Olsen is Thérèse who as a young girl was sent to live with her aunt Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange) and her sickly son Camille (Tom Felton as an adult).  As Thérèse and Camille age, it soon becomes a given in the Raquin household that the two cousins will marry and start a life together in Paris.  They do just that despite hesitation from Thérèse who feels no semblance of love emanating for or from Camille.  Failing to be sexually appeased by her husband, Thérèse finds herself being drawn to artist Laurent (Oscar Isaac) who frequents the Raquin household for weekly card games.  Their lustiness-at-first-sight for each other fuels a passionate forbidden love affair between Thérèse and Laurent and leads them down a path strewn with tragic consequences.

Skipping over the fact that the story itself is extravagantly hammy and histrionic, director Stratton (who also wrote the screenplay) fails to create complex characters with any modicum of depth.  Considering the chaotic feelings Thérèse and Laurent are experiencing, one would have expected some passion and driving force behind their actions, but their love (or lust?) happens too quickly to create the needed character study for their roles.  These two lovers (and the actors who portray them) are simply going through the emotional motions needed to get themselves to the next plot point.  There's no slow build or momentum and it frankly ruins the piece considering the deplorable depths to which Thérèse and Laurent stoop to continue their relationship.

It certainly doesn't help matters that in the film's second half the character of Laurent makes a complete 180-degree turn from where we in the audience have seen him heretofore.  His actions become inconsistent with his prior demeanor and his motivations become incoherent.  Oscar Isaac attempts to clue the audience in to his character's changes of heart, but we're oblivious to why things are moving in particular directions.  Similarly, Elizabeth Olsen has nothing to latch onto with Thérèse except for the character trait of horny housewife and that's simply not enough to carry a film that is trying to be more art-house than frat-boy comedy.

The RyMickey Rating:  D+

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