Movie Review: In Secret

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A young woman forced to marry her cousin begins a torrid affair with an artist.

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Charlie Stratton, 2013

Abandoned by her father at a young age, Therese Raquin (Elizabeth Olson) is desperately unhappy. She has been trapped into marriage with her sickly cousin Camille (Tom Felton) by his manipulative, doting mother (Jessica Lange). They then move from the French countryside to Paris, where Camille will be able to get a job. He introduces them to his old friend Laurent (Oscar Isaac), a painter with terrible sideburns and amazing bedroom eyes. The sexually frustrated Therese is immediately smitten. The two begin a whirlwind, highly sexual romance behind Therese’s aunt and husband’s backs. As Therese grows more distant, Camille makes the decision to move back to the country. Desperate to remain together, Therese and Laurent resort to violent measures. The violence hangs over them like a cloud as they try to move forward together.

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It’s entirely possible that I’m just not the audience for this torrid little erotic thriller/melodrama. It’s also entirely possible that it just isn’t a good movie. It’s way too overwrought for my liking; emotions are heightened from the start of the film, and despite its incredibly slow pacing, too many things happen with no build. There are a few scenes that are downright ludicrous. Almost immediately after being introduced to the adult Therese, we see her getting off to the sight of a hot farmer, with absolutely no other context. During Therese and Laurent’s first interaction with each other without anyone else around, he tells her to take her clothes off in his second line of dialogue to her. Oscar Isaac and Elizabeth Olson are two very talented actors, and I’ve seen Oscar Isaac manage to have good chemistry with much worse actresses than Olson (and some inanimate objects), but their scenes here often fizzle. There are a few lovely sunlit scenes of happy sexytimes between them, but for the most part they’re more damp than sizzle. Part of this could be attributed by the decision to force the mainly American-accented central cast (with the exception of Tom Felton) to put on British accents for this French-set tale. Only Felton is comfortable with this; Jessica Lange, Elizabeth Olson, and Oscar Isaac all struggle with the accent, and it can’t help that they’re largely acting opposite each other. Shirley Henderson, Mackenzie Crook, and Matt Lucas show up for some respite from the claustrophobic central cast, and are all more entertaining than our wet blanket leads.

Jessica Lange is the only bright spot in the main cast. She’s right at home in the melodrama, pitching her performance at just the right level of not-too-seriousness. Of course, that only applies when we can actually see her acting. This movie is <i>so dark</i>, not only in tone, but in lighting as well. The daytime scenes are occasionally quite pretty, which make it baffling when the director seemingly chooses not to light half the movie at all. The second half of the film really starts to drag, as the relationships become more and more ludicrous. Within this film somewhere there’s a message about the repression of women’s sexuality and the damage it can do to everyone, but it’s smothered by bad pacing and shoddy dialogue. There are hints that there could be something good here, but to be honest, there are flaws at a basic structural story level that need overcoming well before anything can be improved at any other level. It never even really feels like you’re in the 1800s. The movie comes across as weird and pointless, as sodden as Camille.

In Secret on IMDb

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