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Every Secret Thing (2014)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
DVD Released: 8/4/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/14/2015
Even if you've only read a few books, you've probably read one which you thought would have made a good movie. Now, imagine that you've read thousands of books, and you'll realize the frustration which comes with the knowledge that there are a great number of novels which have the potential to be great films. But, we watch Hollywood recycle the same scripts and bring us remakes instead of exploring these books. So, when a book does make its way to the screen, it should be a time of celebration. But, that movie is now under pressure to be stellar. Does Every Secret Thing live up the challenge?
As Every Secret Thing opens, we meet Alice Manning (Brynne Norquist), whose mom, Helen (Diane Lane), forces her to be friends with Ronnie Fuller (Eva Grace Kellner), a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. On the way home from an embarrassing scene at a birthday party, the girls spot a baby which has been left unattended. A few days later, the baby is dead and Alice and Ronnie find themselves facing time in jail. The story then leaps ahead several years, as the girls have been released. Ronnie (Dakota Fanning) attempts to adjust to freedom by getting a job in a bagel store. But, Alice (Danielle Macdonald) exhibits strange behavior, as she spends her days simply walking around town. She claims that it is for exercise, but it still comes across as odd. When a toddler is taken from a store, Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks), who was hailed as a hero for cracking the original case, immediately suspects Alice and Ronnie. This makes sense, but would the two girls be foolish enough to commit the same crime again?
Every Secret Thing is based on a novel by best-selling author Laura Lippman, who has written over 20 books. The movie certainly has the feel of a novel, as it contains several characters, the story moves back and forth in time, and we see things from a few different perspectives. Lipppman is known for her detective stories and Every Secret Thing puts an interesting twist on the genre, as it's not a "whodunit?", but instead a "did they do it?".
I have not read the book, but I have to imagine that there is more to it than we get in the film. The movie only scratches the surface in a very frustrating manner and the audience is often left in the dark. Granted, in a mystery, this is necessary to an extent, but I felt as if I knew nothing about the characters here, especially Ronnie. The story focuses mainly on Alice and Helen and Ronnie is often treated as a peripheral character. Screenwriter Nicole Holofcener is also a director, so she should know a little something about storytelling, but Every Secret Thing is simply too vague for its own good. We should be on the edge of our seats wanting to know who took the child, but the movie keeps us at arm's length, making it tremendously difficult to care. It doesn't help by that Alice is an incredibly unsympathetic character.
The real blame for Every Secret Thing's lack of an engaging nature must go to Director Amy Berg. Berg is an Oscar-nominated documentarian who brought usWest of Memphis. To date, Every Secret Thing is her first narrative film, and it truly shows. I can't help but think that Berg felt that the story and the characters would eventually come to her. But, this isn't real life where the tale unfolds organically and people can be unpredictable and larger-than-life. No, this is a situation in which Berg was responsible for coaxing convincing and life-like performances from the actors so that we got fully-formed characters, and this never happens. Everyone appears to be sleep-walking here and the viewer is forced to wait and see if anyone is going to wake up and start acting. Lane is the only one who brings any emotion to their performance. It's interesting to see Banks trying something outside of comedy. And while she isn't bad, she too is nearly emotionless.
So, to summarize, Every Secret Thing offers an overly-vague story filled with lifeless and sometimes unlikable characters. That doesn't sound like a winning combination, does it? Again, the story is somewhat interesting and most viewers will stay around until the end to learn the truth, but the film is still a disappointment. Given the resumes of those involved in Every Secret Thing, one would expect a much better movie. But, what we get is little better than a LifeTime movie.
Every Secret Thing reminds us to bring in our baby from the porch on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. However, the image is noticeably dark around the edges. Was this done on purpose? This makes the entire movie look like a flashback. The colors are good, although muted at times, and the picture is rarely soft. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a drama, we don't get a lot of dynamic audio effects here. A scene in a sewer provides some echoes which come through the rear speakers, and the score sounds fine.
The only extra feature on the Every Secret Thing is a reel of four DELETED SCENES which run about 7 minutes. These show an awkward conversation between Helen and Alice and a series of scenes in which Alice gets a babysitting job.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long