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plot in a nutshell
Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) is a writer. He's also a man who's lost his
wife to another man six months ago. Living in his summer home while
the divorce drags on, a stranger shows up - John Shooter (John Turturro) -
claiming that Rainey stole one of his stories. Rainey knows he's
innocent, but the similarities in the stories, and the bizarre consequences,
are too much to ignore.
The film is based on the
novella "Secret Window, Secret Garden" by Stephen King. It's
another look inside the mind of the writer by one of the great writers of
our time, and the film stays fairly close to the book.
Spoiler Free Thoughts
I have a theory
about Stephen King movies. I've been a fan of King's since I read the
Shining in high school. And yes, it was first published then.
And like most fans of his writing, I've been frustrated time after time by
terrible adaptations of his books. But I have my opinion as to why
they fail - and why they work when they do.
writing isn't about the monster. In reality, his books have covered
all the same beasties over again that we've seen many times before - killer
dogs, insane cars, crazy fans, bloodthirsty vampires, oversized rodents,
etc. etc. etc. No, it's not the monster that matters, but the
people. King writes some of the most colorful, complex characters of
any author. These are always people with which you identify, even the
bad ones. The story matters to you because you get to know, and care
about, the people involved.
someone decides to do a 'horror' movie, they don't care about the
characters. They hire B actors to play the main roles, and spend their
money on making a cool looking monster, and having the cat jump out at just
the right moment. They think the horror part is all in the monsters,
not in the people, and they fail miserably. Films like Cujo,
Christine, Thinner, Children of the Corn, Cat's Eye, and many, many others
fail for just this reason. Did you know he'sbeen adapted or been the
screenwriter for 80 different movies and television mini-series?
it seems like every time someone adapts one of his non-horror books, it's a
huge hit. Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, Running Man,
Misery, and now Secret Window, all show what happens when they hire A list
actors, who can bring to life the true nature of the characters, and get you
to feel about them on film the same way you did in print. Even the
more horror based films that are hits, like Carrie, The Shining, Dead Zone,
hire actors who can translate the characters, and the film focuses on them,
instead of the scares.
yes, I know there are exceptions on both sides, but I'm generalizing
here. Secret Window does what the best King movies do - Johnny Depp
does an amazing job bringing to life the character of Mort Rainey. And
he doesn't look anything like a Mort.
not handling the loss of his wife well. He's turned himself into a
recluse, lost in his own world, still trying to write, but mostly just
sleeping and being miserable. From wearing his wife's old robe all
day, now ratty and torn, to looking like he's never met a comb he liked,
Depp falls into this guy's world perfectly. It's another great
performance by him, and further cements his under-appreciated nature.
supporting cast does a fine job doing what they need to do, but the other
important character here is John Turturro as the mysterious Shooter.
He goes down as one of the creepiest guys in recent film history, casual yet
deadly, using his Mississippi drawl to take you completely off guard.
writing is solid, mostly because it manages to keep the story tight, moving
along, with some great dialog thrown in. I never found myself bored,
and yet it never felt rushed. I will say that the 'surprise' was
obvious about 10 minutes in, even if I hadn't already read the story.
But it's the ending that will haunt you, and rather than tack on the usual
Hollywood ending, they went with a nice, creepy, bizarre Stephen King
Rating - Rent It.
Cuddle up with your significant other and watch this together. And
think about how much different your life might be. Maybe it's a good
thing to not have too active of an imagination.
Spoiler Laden Thoughts
There are a couple things to bring up...
Of course, you know he's
nuts. The twist here is that you like him, you relate to him, and even
when it becomes obvious that he and Shooter are really one in the same, you
don't want to believe it. Will they eventually catch Depp? Well,
there's always the watch. Then again, they have to find the truck
I did have a couple minor
issues. How did people miss the 'shooter' carved all over the house,
particularly the P.I. Karsch? He was in the place, and yet there was
nothing odd...yet when his wife shows up at the end, there's clearly days
worth of effort in putting the name everywhere. The structure of the
film implied he did all that after his wife had left her boyfriend's home,
but before she reached the cabin, a tough sell.
And what happened with the
housekeeper? She was there once, but never again...it seemed the film
had difficultiy making the passing of time in the film make
sense. Shooter gave him three days at the start, but how much time
I liked the cut at the end of
the film. There is an alternate ending on the DVD, where they actually
showed the bodies under the ground. That was over the top, and I much
prefer the cut from the dirt to his chomping on the ear of corn.
That's the way King likes to end stories, and let's hope his other films
currently in production - Desperation, Riding the Bullet and Bag of Bones
(especially Riding the Bullet) are allowed to explore evil in a similar way.