Rated: R for sexual content and brief violent images. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: February 21, 2014 Released by: Roadside Attractions
A tale of love and betrayal set in late 19th Century Paris has an erotic allure going for it with shades of Dangerous Liaisons or the lesser Original Sin until its mostly dispassionate, monotonous later passages.
Charlie Stratton transitions from the stage and television productions with In Secret in adapting the pliant, if occasionally prurient prose of Emile Zola's Therese Raquin.
A fresh perspective on the somewhat steamy antecedent having something in common with Double Indemnity or not as far back Body Heat starring Kathleen Turner and William Hurt.
Elizabeth Olsen (of Spike Lee's recent Oldboy) is the illegitimate child Therese who grows more lascivious in becoming more svelte and nubile in moving to the City of Lights in working for her demanding aunt Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange of American Horror Story: Coven) as a clerk in a fabric shop. The entitled Mme. Raquin has Therese marry her effete cousin Camille or Cami, sensitively portrayed by Tom Felton (remembered in the Harry Potter canon as Draco Malfoy).
The tale with luminous landscape shots filmed in Serbia and Hungary pivots in explicitly intimate (if not extended) interludes with the appearance of Cami's old friend Laurent, played with unctuous foreboding virility and some virulence by Oscar Isaac (in a far less dispirited turn than Inside Llewyn Davis).
Part of the circle of friends of Mme. Raquin is Suzanne filled with amusing intrusiveness by Shirley Henderson helps to provide some levity as a plan leads to dire consequences on a boat trip. Olsen (though better in more clandestine, internalized roles like in the striking Martha Marcy May Marlene) definitely sparks at times with a charismatic Isaac in some close-up, amber-lit scenes. While Lange gets to further shade her manipulative character with anguish as the tone becomes more dreary and sullen.
Maybe In Secret is meant in an homage to the feverish film noir brought on by Zola's crafty writing as felt by some line readings to locate a certain poignant pathos. Even with the occasional firebrand work of its committed, capable performers, especially a nice change-of-pace for Felton, an English translation of French literature (like the recent Cheri) can't ultimately breathe cinematic life in transitioning through guilt and misery.