Thursday, February 27, 2014

In Secret [2013]

MPAA (R)  ChicagoTribune (2 1/2 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (C)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (O. Henderson) review
AVClub (B. Kenigsberg) review

In Secret [2013] (directed and screenplay by Charlie Stratton, based on the novel Thérèse Raquin (1867) [wikip] [IMDb] by Émile Zola [IMDb] and its stage adaptation by Neal Bell [IMDb]) plays-out like a sexed-up version of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment (1866) [wikip] [IMDb].  The thematics are similar and, interestingly enough, the original novels came out within a year of each other.

Thérèse Raquin (played briefly in film as a girl by Lily Laight and for the rest of story as a young adult by Elizabeth Olsen) is handed-over as child by her father to his sister/her aunt Madame Raquin (played by Jessica Lange) because Thérèse's mother had died and as her father confesses, "[he] didn't know what to do with her."  So Thérèse grows up "in the (French) Provinces" in the home of her aunt and her first sickly and (when he grows up) socially inept son Camille (played in the film by Tom Felton). 

Madame and Camille, however, had a plan.  After Camille was able to land an accounting job of sorts in Paris, they decided to pick-up sticks and move there.  What of Thérèse?  Well, what of her?  They decide to marry her to ... Camille (!).  Now remember that Thérèse and Camille are first cousins, but ... let's face it Camille's a loser and where'd Thérèse get a dowry?  From her father?  Where the heck was he?  From Madame and Camille?  Yeah, right.   Madame's been paying for Thérèse's keep since her brother dropped her off at her doorstep as a child.  So ... "That's just the way it's gonna be honey..."

The three find probably the most depressing flat in Paris.  Madame and Thérèse would run some kind of a small seamstress shop on the ground floor while Camille would be off at work and they would (all) live upstairs.  Camille was generally "off in his own little world," apparently often "stopping at the zoo" after work "to look at the bears."  When deathly bored Thérèse offers one night (in bed) that she "could also be a bear," he looks at her and responds "don't be silly," adjusts his pillow, rolls over and goes to sleep.  Sigh ... something's got to give ...

Well, things turn (in a sense ...) "for the better" for our French "Jane Eyre" [IMDb], when Camille comes home excitedly one day with a long-lost childhood friend named Laurant (played in the film by Oscar Isaac) who he ran into in Paris one day.   Well Laurant is everything that Camille is not.  He's good-looking, quite confident in his demeanor, exuding a "knowledge of things of the world."  But also as an artist (remember Camille is an accountant) Laurant was also broke. So soon enough the desperately lonely (today we'd add sexually frustrated) Thérèse and the broke bohemian Laurant jump headlong into a torrid (and admittedly, at times amusing) affair. 

The circumstances of the affair were (again, for lack of a better word) "amusing" because it turned out that the dingy, awfully depressing flat where Thérèse, Camille and Madame all lived had at least one "redeeming" (of sorts ...) "virtue" ... It apparently had a side door/staircase that led to the second floor.  SOO... good ole Thérèse started to feint headaches around noon time to go upstairs "to rest" while Laurant would skip-off on his lunch-breaks from his odd jobs to visit her using that side-door / staircase with Madame (apparently getting old) and "out of it" Camille "none the wiser."

This worked for a while ... until ... Camille became tired of his rather boring accounting job and sensing (finally) that he's _probably_ failed his wife, tells Thérèse that "Paris was not for them (him)" and that he wanted to take her and Madame back to the family homestead back in the Provinces where they grew up. 

Of course Thérèse didn't not want to go, but Camille decides to "put his foot down" on the matter (after all, "he's the husband...").  So Thérèse and Laurant come up with a desperate plan to "get rid of" (kill) Camille, and ... they do.

It's here that the story (or at least Part II of the story) _really begins_.  Okay, the two killed him.  Now how continue to see each other while NOT arousing suspicion that they did so ...?   There's Madame who's heartbroken over the loss of her admittedly socially inept son.  There turned out to be all kinds of mutual friends/acquaintances.  Then as much of "a loser" that Camille was, he had been a human being.  So it proves _really hard_ to live with this secret ... and much ensues as the two try ...

I have to admit, I very much enjoyed this story of "Jane Eyre" [IMDb] meets "Raskolnikov" [IMDb].  I enjoyed all the performances and yes as the two struggled with their guilt, it becomes ever more clear that the Moral Order has to come to be vindicated ... With themes of adultery and murder and some passionate (if covered) love scenes (Parents take note...) the film deserves its R-rating. 

Yet, for young adults and above, I do believe it makes for a good, thought provoking story and a very good film.  Good job!

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