Review: ‘In Secret’ misses most of what’s great about an Emile Zola’s novel

Elizabeth Olsen plays a woman forced into a loveless marriage in "In Secret." Credit: Phil Bray
Elizabeth Olsen plays a woman forced into a loveless marriage in “In Secret.”
Credit: Phil Bray

‘In Secret’
Director: Charlie Stratton
Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, Oscar Isaac
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

The problem with adapting any novel is the potential of losing what may be its most distinguishable feature: the language. A picture is worth a thousand words, or many, many more. What someone like Charles Dickens spends pages describing, in beautiful, flowing prose, can be shown in a single frame. But much can be lost in translation: the character of the writing, the details that make it unique. Stripped of its prose, Emile Zola’s “Therese Raquin” is a fairly typical tale of love and murder. It could be a soap opera arc. That’s mostly what it becomes in the so-so “In Secret,” which strips it down to its bare bones plot and has little else to make it special, beyond a few stranded actors.

Elizabeth Olsen looks as lost as her character, Therese, an orphaned beauty forced to live with her aunt, the cruel Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange). The Madame is nice only to those of higher social station, as well as to her son, the terminally ill and pale Camille (Tom Felton). Therese is forced to marry Camille, but what seems like a long life of loveless oppression is brightened upon meeting his friend Laurent (Oscar Isaac), a painter who gets her hot and bothered. But there’s still Camille in the way — but can they live with rubbing him out?

Of course they can’t, because no one ever has (unless they’re in a Woody Allen picture). Therese and Laurent go through the motions of lovers forced into an unthinkable crime — a tale told a million times before and a million times after. It’s not the plot that makes any of these tellings unique, but the way it’s told. “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” which follows a similar path but from the male perspective, is great because of its style, not because of the bare bones plot.

“In Secret” whittles it down to the bone, keeping only period garb, admittedly beautiful musty lighting and, in the case of three of its leads, fake British accents. There’s intimations that first-time director Charles Stratton meant for more of a comedy: Felton (Draco from the “Harry Potter” films) is good fun as a sickly grotesque, sniveling and arrogant but also touchingly pathetic. A supporting cast of Raquin family friends is filled out by stars of English comedy, like Matt Lucas and Mackenzie Crook. A broadly comic version of “Therese Raquin” — or even a trashy one that kept in step with Lange’s inevitably hammy work — may have been a betrayal of Zola’s work, but it would have been something. Instead, this speeds through a plot, hitting all the hairpin turns but missing the essence.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Local

De Blasio, Bratton defend city's efforts after Eric…

Mayor Bill de Blasio justified the city's response to the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died while in police custody earlier this month.

National

PHOTO: New Zealand Heral uses wrong image to…

The New Zealand Herald made a terrible mistake of using the wrong image to illustrate the tragic death of Staff Sergeant Guy Boyland – a New Zealand-born Israeli soldier who…

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.