In Secret (2014) Review

In SecretReleased: February 21, 2014. Directed by: Charlie Stratton. Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Felton, Jessica Lange. Runtime: 101 min.

Note: I saw this way back in September at the Toronto International Film Festival premiere, I just forgot to post my review of this.

“In Secret” is a period piece that has a lot of history behind it. It is classical French literature written by Emile Zola, and this version is adapted by Charlie Stratton, from that novel and the play by Neal Bell. It’s great to see a movie that feels so fresh, yet has so much history behind it – it’s been around for ages!

Elizabeth Olsen takes on the challenging role of Therese, a woman who is haunted by her own personal demons after an unspeakable act. She is forced into a marriage to her cousin Camille (Tom Felton) by her despicable aunt, Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange). When they move to Paris to open up a shop, Therese meets Laurent (Oscar Isaac), someone who might just be her way out. What happens next introduces themes of betrayal, murder, adultery and guilt.

“In Secret” is a fascinating character study. I can see why it’s such a cherished novel; compelling yet deeply unsettling. Therese is sent to live with Madame Raquin and Camille after her mother dies, and she is basically treated as a servant girl, but perhaps near-servant girl was the role of young women in 1860s Paris. Camille tries his best to make her happy. It makes for some incredibly uncomfortable, yet HILARIOUS, scenes. It’s great to see such comic relief in such a sordid ordeal. Since I am not familiar with the source material, I have no idea if this is an adaptation that stays true in tone. All I know, it’s immensely enjoyable.

The comic relief mostly comes from two characters: Olivier (Bridesmaids’ Matt Lucas) and his wife, Suzanne (Shirley Henderson), and the humour is just priceless. Interestingly enough, Henderson was the oldest woman to portray a student in the “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” (and “Goblet of Fire”) as the ghost who haunts the first floor girl’s lavatory, Moaning Myrtle. Her voice is very distinctive. It’s a bit of a reunion for Malfoy and her.

Initially, the character of Therese gains our sympathies, because this seems like a horrible life. After the acts she commits, she wrestles with receiving the audience’s repulsion and sympathies. At the beginning, it was a bit gross to see her marrying her cousin – but she was forced. For the half of the film, Madame Raquin gains more of our sympathies than Therese. Jessica Lange is such a powerful actress, she can easily portray emotions through her eyes – that’s talent. Some of the comic relief members of the cast portray characters that aren’t bright enough to understand the look of fear. It’s a clever way to get a few big laughs. Jessica Lange is a strong supporting, but Elizabeth Olsen brings such power to the role of Therese. It’s such a treat to watch an Olsen who can truly act.

Stratton’s vision is impressive. The primary cast is all around impressive. There are surreal scenes that are as compelling as they are terrifying. Their roles are fascinating, and it’s a great tale of how guilt can eat a person alive. It does raise one primary question in my eyes: How far would you go to live a possibly happier life? It brings other poignant and eerie thoughts to mind, but I better not spoil them.

Score88/100

The Vow (2012)

The VowThe Vow

Release Date: February 10, 2012

Director: Michael Sucsy

Stars: Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Sam Neill

Runtime: 104 min

I wrote the original review of this back in late August, and I just tweaked it a little.

The true story of it all seems like it’s a sad one, but the Hollywood version turns it into a complete and total schmaltz-fest. It’s apparent that we’re supposed to relate or feel pity for the characters, but it proves difficult sometimes.

The first half starts off on a fairly strong point with a nice little original wedding, the injury on account of lack of seatbelt, the amnesia bit. Then, the parents come in (Jessica Lange and Jurassic Park’s Sam Neill), wanting their baby girl home because she ran away a while ago.

It soon turns into a total schmaltz fest, that, if you are unaware that it’s a true story, you might think it comes right out of the mind of Nicholas Sparks. At the half-way mark, it’s hard not to lose interest in the characters and the story itself and the hardest task is not to mimic the people in the film, much like I did with The Lucky One. The film just doesn’t get any better.

The film isn’t entirely unendurable, but it’s a sub-par effort with lazy and predictable writing, that had the tendency to be too cute. The filmmakers probably feel having Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams on board, their appeal would satisfy audiences, and there wouldn’t be a need for good writers. News flash: That doesn’t work, guys. The chemistry between McAdams and Tatum was likeable enough, even though there was a lot of very irritating fights.

The film is part sad, part feel-good, but very average, with the best part being McAdams and Tatum.

55/100