“In Secret” An Old-Fashioned Melodrama
By Skip Sheffield
“In Secret” is an old-fashioned melodrama that answers the seldom-asked question, “What ever happened to Jessica Lange?”
The answer is the one-time King Kong hottie got older and is now playing a bitter old biddy with a devious niece in the Paris of 1860.
“In Secret” is based on the Emile Zola novel “Therese Raquin,” re-written for the screen by director Charlie Stratton.
Jessica Lange is Madame Raquin, aunt of Therese Raquin.
Therese was an illegitimate child abandoned by her father and dumped with her cold, unfeeling aunt after her mother died. Therese is played by Elizabeth Olsen, who is a bit too young and not sensuous enough for her role of femme fatale.
Madame Raquin has a sickly, doted-upon son named Camille, played by Tom Felton, Draco Malfoy in the “Harry Potter” movies.
Therese is pressed into a loveless marriage of convenience with Camille, who remains under the thumb of his domineering mother.
When Camille gets a job in Paris, both mom and Therese come with him.
In Paris Camille welcomes his childhood friend Laurent (Oscar Isaac of “Inside Llewyn Davis”) to his family. Laurent is everything Camille is not: dashing, handsome and smolderingly sexy.
It doesn’t take long for Therese to become smitten with seductive Laurent. So begins a passionate affair right under the nose of Madame Raquin and her clueless son.
Therese masks her afternoon trysts with “terrible migraine” headaches which confine her to her bedroom.
“I don’t know how to make her happy,” Camille whines to his mother.
When Camille decides to assert himself and insists they leave the “filthy city” of Paris, Laurent and Therese conspire to take drastic action.
Because the love scenes fail to generate the desired heat, it is much more fun to watch the gradual disintegration of Madame Raquin, as Jessica Lange pulls out all the stops in over-acting into madness and catatonia. Lange, who turns 65 on April 20, is the most enjoyable part of an otherwise uninteresting, overwrought, costumed period piece.