Every Secret Thing


Director: Amy Berg

Writer: Nicole Holofcener; based on the novel by Laura Lippman

Cast: Diane Lane as Helen Manning, Elizabeth Banks as Det. Nancy Porter, Danielle Macdonald & Brynne Norquist as Alice Manning, Dakota Fanning & Eva Grace Kellner as Ronnie Fuller, Nate Parker as Det. Kevin Jones, Common as Devlin Hatch, Sarah Sokolovic as Maveen Lyttle

Rated R for some language and disturbing images

Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes

IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1706598/

Plot: When a young child disappears, suspicion falls on two teenagers who recently served prison terms for a similar crime

On the surface, Every Secret Thing looks like a surefire hit, or at least an unusually good Lifetime movie. It’s based on a popular book, directed by a renowned documentarian, and written by one of cinema’s most unique voices. It stars a trio of charismatic actresses and introduces another. Even Common lends his considerable presence.

Inexplicably, this is not enough. Maybe it’s a problem with Lippman’s book, but even bad books can be adapted well (hello, Bridges of Madison County). This is a by-the-numbers effort, as if all these talented people just lost interest at some point.

Berg brings some grit to the small-town New York setting, where rich and poor coexist very uneasily (although class has little to do with the story). The characters have potential, exhibiting a range of pathologies that would be interesting if they were written more carefully. Alice and Ronnie, the girls at the center of the investigation, are just part of a messed-up puzzle, and Fanning at least gets to shine in a couple of scenes. Macdonald is a real find, even though she can’t quite get a bead on Alice. She and Norquist do a lot with older and younger versions of the troubled girl, despite the screenplay’s gaps.

Banks probably has the most comprehensible role as the detective who remains traumatized by the original case. Nancy is so drab, though, she extinguishes the actress’ natural spark. Lane’s Helen has quirkier details, but they don’t make much sense, so she’s left floundering. It’s a truly baffling waste of talent.

It seems like Every Secret Thing was heavily edited, leaving out depth and motivation in favor of more plot points. The ending is presumably supposed to be chilling or thought-provoking, but its real effect is making you glad the slog is finally over. 5/31/15

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