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'In Secret' review: A secluded scheduled seduction

In Secret


"In Secret" began playing theatrically in Houston starting today, February 21.

Oscar Isaac and Elizabeth Olsen in "In Secret."
Oscar Isaac and Elizabeth Olsen in "In Secret."
In Secret 01
The official poster for "In Secret."
Roadside Attractions

In the 1860s, a young girl named Therese is left with her aunt Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange) and sick son Camille by her father as he sails around the world. Therese stays with her aunt and cousin for years and is gently pushed into a marriage with Camille (Tom Felton) once she reaches adulthood. Therese (Elizabeth Olsen) is driven to boredom as she takes care of her sick husband and tends to her aunt's every whim day in and day out. Camille gets a job and the trio moves to Paris where Therese meets Camille's childhood friend Laurent (Oscar Isaac) and is instantly attracted to him. A passionate love affair then commences, but Therese and Laurent soon have desires that can't be met by sneaking around. They devise a diabolical scheme that is sure to bring them together and yet they're so blinded by passion that they fail to take a moment to consider what ramifications could possibly come from it.

How many times has this story been done? A woman trapped in a boring marriage finds what she's looking for in her husband's best friend. Tragedy is soon to follow and that relationship eventually falls to pieces. "In Secret" has so much in common with Tommy Wiseau's "The Room" that it's not even funny. However, "In Secret" has potential early on until it eventually crumbles and becomes just as monotonous as Therese's marriage to Camille.

You feel for Therese at first as she's abandoned and shoved into a relationship that she doesn't really want. The four main characters all have their own quirks to intrigue the viewer slightly. Therese is curious, extremely sexual, and hopeful of what the world has in store for her outside of the four walls she always finds herself boxed inside of. Camille is greasy, sickly, and complains about everything. Tom Felton has made a career out of portraying slimy grease balls and that trend is taken to an all too literal high here. Laurent is the artist who doesn't have any work, but isn't hungry enough to be starving for it. He sketches, paints, drinks, and screws. What's interesting is that Oscar Isaac has again jumped into the character of the talented lone wolf who can't find work much like Llewyn Davis. Finally there's Madame Raquin who spoils her son and is a bit hard on Therese.

The interest quickly falters around the time Laurent and Therese begin to fool around because it becomes so utterly predictable and illogical. An accident in the town happens where a man dies. The police inspector named Olivier (Matt Lucas) is supposedly mentored by his retired father named Michaud (John Kavanagh), but no investigation takes place. The event occurs and the prime suspect is basically told to go home without any sort of follow up. Olivier's wife Suzanne (Shirley Henderson) seems to be closing in on discovering the truth, but the story point is never actually capitalized on. Nobody seems to be putting any sort of effort into finding out if this was truly an accident or if there was any sort of foul play. A big deal is made about pointing out the scratch that never heals on Laurent's neck, but nothing ever comes of that either. Not only was Matt Lucas of "Little Britain" fame cast as a police chief, but Mackenzie Crook from the UK's version of "The Office" also appears in the film. "In Secret" is very much this dark, dramatic, romantic thriller. So why in the world is something thrown in to laugh about a woman attempting to tell her friends that someone was killed?

As a fan of a good portion of the cast, it's disappointing to report that "In Secret" just doesn't satisfy on any sort of level. There are shades of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," "Romeo and Juliet," and weirdly enough Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, but the story has no structure and no one in the film seems to know how to think logically. It certainly doesn't help that Jessica Lange takes her performance completely over the top in the second half of the film; it's so outrageous that even Nicolas Cage would find it ridiculous.

"In Secret" is a tiresome love story featuring an improper use of comedy at awkward moments in the film and characters that are torn apart by desire and guilt. Everyone seems to throw these pathetic pity parties for themselves while the events in the film are strung together by a savage boat paddle beating. At one point in the film, Camille says, "Is there anything as depressingly calm as a Sunday afternoon?" "In Secret" is the cinematic equivalent of a Sunday afternoon.