A road trip for a practically secret film and a road trip in another more public film

Yesterday brought Chapter 4 in my occasional series of “will travel to Oakland County for film in limited release”, this time for a screening of In Secret (worst title ever?), the new adaptation of the “Therese Raquin” story known in French drama. (Until recently this film was just “Therese” – it should have stayed that way.) The film’s distributor, Roadside Attractions, recently slammed by Robert Redford, may or may not have used poor judgement in creating a tiny release for the film – it’s only playing at this one theatre in the Detroit area. And so off I went, mostly based on curiosity and nostalgia from seeing the story told onstage in London in one of my favorite productions I saw there early in 2007. (the link goes to a review roundup since the production’s main page appears to have gone offline.)

I found the film to be mostly stellar, with an impressive lead performance from Elizabeth Olsen and nuanced support from Oscar Isaac (doing a quick turnaround from Llewyn Davis and seemingly enjoying a chance to show some dramatic range), Tom Felton (leaving Draco Malfoy behind with a sense of earnest joy) and Jessica Lange (chewing the scenery in style). The performances were really the showcase of the film… I also want to mention British character actress Shirley Henderson, who popped up as a neighbor knowing more than she lets on.

olsenThe rest of the film proceeded as a highly committed if not four/five star adaptation, with the strongest take on the story coming in the middle of the film as  a devious plot is hatched and its consequences take full force after the fact. But after one of those consequences hits one of the main characters, I was disappointed with how workmanlike the story became as it marched towards the finale. I missed the atmosphere and particularly the sound design – with lots of low menacing noises – of the stage version’s take on that part of the story.

It’s too bad that the film is receiving such a limited release, as I think that others would find it intriguing based on the cast and storyline, especially with Lange appearing onscreen for the first time in (seemingly) several years and Olsen demonstrating great character actress potential in a more dramatic role.

For some reason the movie theatre itself, the Birmingham 8, offered some of the worst examples of audience etiquette I have seen in recent years. At least eight people (not all together) walked in to the individual theatre about 3/4 of the way through the film, two of them staying through the end credits, and the others loudly asking their companions if they were in the right theatre, when obviously they were not. I think the theatre needs to work on its signage…


dern and squibbI didn’t note my viewing of Oscar contender Nebraska last week at the State Theater here in Ann Arbor, and just wanted to make a quick mention of it as being a delightful film, much better than I expected, with winning portrayals from the central trio of Bruce Dern, Will Forte and June Squibb. Dern and Squibb in particular offered a highly believable impression of a long-lasting marriage, with all of the history and emotion that would entail.


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