Quick Hit: A formulaic misfire that had a chance to do something special: make a movie about women by using women.
There are not enough leading roles for women in film. Just look at our current superhero craze. Very few feature women prominently in roles that you could be proud of (indeed, even Sharon Carter got banished to television for a short time). Hopefully it looks like this will be turning around shortly with the Wonder Woman movie (and rumors are abounding for a Black Widow film) as well as a Captain Marvel film (please please please be Emily Blunt). This film does a great job of not just passing the Bechdel test, but smashing it to pieces, along with being directed by a woman and produced by a woman and written by a woman. It’s a shame that it turns into a bit of garbage by the end.
Every Secret Thing follows two girls that aren’t really friends. They eventually kidnap a girl (as young girls do – more on this in a bit) and the girl dies. They go to prison for seven years (one prison, the other a mental facility – I’m never quite sure which girl went where in this film), and are subsequently released. From here, we see them beginning to try to rebuild their lives. Ronnie (Dakota Fanning) is obviously doing a bit better on the outside, but mentally she seems to be struggling. Alice (newcomer Danielle MacDonald) on the other hand, seems to be a bit clueless but still seems to be handling things better.
other reviewers have made before me, but it’s an accurate one: this movie seems a lot like a mix of Gone Baby Gone and Gone Girl. Even the color schemes are similar.
Like those films, there is enough to get you hooked pretty much from the beginning. Diane Lane plays Alice’s mom and she sure tries her hardest, but you can’t help but dislike the character. Alice is set up sympathetically, but there is just something off about the girl (after the way her mother treats her, it’s not surprising). Her best scene is a perfectly delivered joke, followed by a laugh that is when she is asked by her mother where she was so late and how she got home, “I take rides home from men and do things to them for money because I’m fat, lonely, and need attention.” – that line is chilling when it is directly followed with a hyena laugh and a storm up the stairs.
weren’t so damn catty towards each other the whole time. I know that there is a long standing history of mothers mentally and verbally abusing their daughters, and unlikely friends being pushed together. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t break some of these clichés (even the best character in the movie, Bank’s character, is formulaic, with the “detective that has a personal connection to a case” thing). We don’t have enough movies about women that support each other – we should really get on that.
To finally emphasize a point that I know I’m harping on, Every Secret Thing had a chance to be good. But the only two performances that I enjoyed were Banks’s and MacDonald’s (despite the fact that at times MacDonald went a bit too far with the emotions, I still found her performance believable and compelling). Dakota Fanning disappears for large portions of the movie, and there is very little speaking she has to do. It’s like they decided that if you put enough make-up on her, she can just look emo and it’ll be fine. This is a waste of a talented actress, in the same way they wasted Diane Lane.
Hopefully someone can pick up the threads of this film and feel inspired to create something better. I’ll look forward to tuning in next time. I’m giving Every Secret Thing a “D+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"