Oct 2, 2019
‘In Secret’: Unhappy Rich People And Their Hats
One of our favorite guilty movie pleasures is a subgenre we refer to as Unhappy Rich People in Hats Movies, and we fervently hoped that In Secret would fit the bill.
Unhappy Rich People in Hats Movies (URPHM) have a solid formula: 1.) they are based on ‘serious’ literature; 2.) they feature tragic heroines who sometimes suffer from TB and always suffer from a lack of good D; 3.) they have magnificent period costumes and settings, and of course many wonderful hats; and 4.) they are usually histrionic and silly and extremely lovable.
The mini-series “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” with Joely Richardson and a young and thoroughly delicious Sean Bean is a current favorite, but we would be remiss to not mention Marty Scorsese’s version of The Age of Innocence which is a master class on URPHM done right.
So In Secret should have been basically be a big vat of cinematic catnip, what with being adapted from a play, and also based on an Emile Zola novel, featuring a tragic heroine played by Elizabeth Olsen (who looks like a figure from a Botticelli painting) and also lots of tragic sexytime with voluminous skirts and waistcoats all akimbo. But alas, alack (aloo?) it is not catnip, it is just histrionic and unpleasant.
Olsen plays Therese, an orphan sent to live with her aunt (Jessica Lange aka Fiona Goode aka awesome) and sickly cousin Camille (Tom Felton, aka Draco Malfoy). She marries the cousin, because that was ok in those days, and move to Paris with mother in tow. Ah, but life is tres miserable, until she takes up with her husband’s colleague (Oscar Isaac, who’s apparently quite a looker when he’s not playing hipster Bob Dylan in Inside Llewyn Davis). Their lives are full of passion, and romance, and lots of oral sex for Therese. But oh, the misery, the anguish, the long descent into madness! And wouldn’t it be super convenient if Camille was to meet with a terrible accident?
Our stars, Olsen and Isaac, are the it-girl and boy of the moment and it’s unclear why they chose this project. The dialogue is stodgy and morose, like one of the sub-par BBC miniseries that show up on Netflix. And I feel bad for Felton, whose name is probably going to be followed with “aka Draco Malfoy” for the rest of his life. He’s not terrible in this, but he’s deep in the trap of being recognizable only as Draco, because Camille is pretty much just a nicer Draco, with no magic skills but a nasty persistent cough.
The one bright spot is Jessica Lange, who’s been crazying up television screens for several years now in “American Horror Story,” but leaves the scenery relatively uneaten here as Madame. She is quietly fearsome, a woman who murders her foes with sweetness and selective hearing, who surrounds herself with morons and wimps to become queen of her own little universe. I almost wish director Charlie Stratton had allowed her more leeway to be crazy-pants.
As you can imagine, nothing ends well for any of these people in In Secret, which is the other prevailing factor of an Unhappy Rich People in Hats Movie. There are many tears, and the drinking of absinthe, and a pretty hilarious scene when (spoiler alert) Madame is almost drowned in a tub. Will this be two hours of guilty pleasure for you? Eh, maybe, but probably just watch “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” again.