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Secret Window

 


gen-x-review-secret-window-movie-poster.jpgPerhaps the most important point about Secret Window is that the appearance of Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean) has the power to make women gasp again.


I’m convinced it will be at least five years before I’ll be able to see a Depp film without having to endure fawning fans’ moans of pleasure when Johnny talks or wipe their collective saliva off my shirt after he takes his shirt off.


Seriously: as the movie opened on Depp’s face, at least half the audience gasped, followed by female giggles and breathless sighs.


I’m happy for Depp, I really am, but people are cheating themselves by ogling his pretty-boy good looks because they’re missing the fact that he’s become a very good actor. He is so good, in fact, that he almost makes Secret Window worth the $8.75 ticket price. Almost, but not quite.


Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) is an author plagued with memories of the night he discovered his wife and her lover at a motel neat their Maine vacation home. He and wife Amy (Maria Bello) separate following that explosive night, but Mort can’t seem to move on. Stuck on the first lines of a new novel, he lounges around his home in a tattered bathrobe and lives a quiet life of utter desperation.


One day a mysterious stranger appears claiming that Mort has stolen one of his stories for his own. Shooter (John Turturro) snarls his words in a Mississippi drawl and doesn’t seem particularly the author type, if you know what I mean, but the manuscript he gives to Mort is nearly identical to a story Rainey wrote for the magazine Ellery Queen.


Shooter cuts a path of violence through Rainey’s life that draws Amy and her lover Ted (Timothy Hutton) into the drama, while pushing Rainey to the brink of sanity – and beyond. Secret Window is a story about identity theft back when it was an existential crisis and not the act of some computer nerd who wants to get free porn off the Internet. It’s a film about how a story sometimes takes on a life of its own


The film is based on a short story written by Stephen King and contains the master’s usual ingredients – misogyny, creepy country folks, dumb small-town cops, etc. – but it’s a well-crafted work of fiction. It’s one of those great King stories that primarily takes place in the mind of the author. Unfortunately, it turns out this sort of narrative doesn’t convert well to film since artistic introspection in movies involves a lot of talking to ones’ self.


It also isn’t a story full of whatchacall character development. Or characters with defined personalities, come to think of it. The written story is a sort of Lovecraftian novella written in first person, and it didn’t suffer any for its lack of deep characters, but the film feels hollow because none of its characters are particularly interesting or believable.


The narrator’s sardonic wit made the written story seem edgy, but it undercuts Rainey’s credibility on screen. He doesn’t appear to understand the gravity of his actions and his deadpan humor was constantly interrupted by sophomoric giggles from middle-aged women in the audience who should understand irony and teenaged girls who frankly should be at Agent Cody Banks.


Erm, excuse me.

The cast does a lot with what little is given them, but this isn’t enough to recommend the film. With this much star power you’d expect – and deserve – something special, but Secret Window isn’t it, which isn’t to say it’s a terrible film: It’s not. It’s just very forgettable, which might be a bit of a crime given the talent gathered here. It’s sort of like powering a pen light with a nuclear power plant.


In the end Secret Window is a fairly basic film with quiet moments of classy horror and characters that don’t exactly sparkle with life. It would have made a great episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which tells you how good TV used to be and how mediocre films can be, even when they have impressive firepower and a solid story.


Secret Window will be a good movie to pick up in Blockbusters in three months. Nothing will be lost in the translation to small screen, and no one will be offended when you shiver with delight every time Depp appears.

 

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