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Secret Window

A funny thing happened on the way to a crucifixion the other day and we ended up taking in the latest Johnny Depp film Secret Window even though it was not the movie we bought a ticket intending to see. We had stopped by the theater on the way back to the bunk house to check what was showing and found that we'd already seen everything in residence except for the Depp vehicle and The Passion of the Christ. Although Depp is almost always entertaining on some level and Window would have been our choice given the two options, the show time involved sitting around for forty five minutes so we half heartedly bought a ticket for Passion. We have been aware, of course, of the Mel Gibson directed film which has evidently become some sort of social phenomenon and figured that if we finally suffered through the movie no matter how dispassionate we were about the experience, perhaps we could then participate, or at least better understand, some of the discussion and fervor it has generated. This cross became too much to bear almost immediately however once we noticed a priest in the lobby standing on a chair and giving a talk to a flock. As it became evident that he was planning on attending the film with what appeared to be his entire congregation, we realized that the only logical thing to do was file past the soon to be sobbing and fainting throngs into the empty theater next door and wait for Johnny and the chance to view a Stephen King inspired story that, the more we got to thinking about it, started sounding a little too familiar. Afterall, the whole writer isolated in the woods and wronged in love theme is not a new one to many on the Goliard staff. 

In this case Depp is said writer, going by the name of Mort Rainey, and is driven to take refuge in his country house after he discovers his wife in bed with someone named Teddy, played by Timothy Hutton. Six months later a black hatted stranger shows up at the cabin door in the form of John Turturro and accuses him (in a creepy southern accent) of pilfering one of his short stories. Mort denies it and tries to ignore the stranger, which is a bit of a chore given the fact that he's alone in a cabin in the woods and the guy keeps showing up and becomes increasingly threatening. Now under normal circumstance, we could all probably agree that the best thing to do while living alone by a lake in the deep woods and being threatened with violence, especially if you've come outside in the night to find unspeakable things done to your poor blind dog, would be to put your ass in your Jeep and drive far far away to a pay phone which you could then use to alert the authorities. Actions that would make sense in everyday life however rarely are mirrored by those entrenched in films in this genre and Depp does not do anything but stay put and bring in a private detective, Charles Dutton, who he sends home the minute it gets dark and who, of course, is promptly disposed of in an appropriately grisly manner. To this film's credit however, the reasons for Depp's abnormal behavior at least become clear as the movie soldiers along. As the body count begins to grow and Mort struggles with anger issues as his divorce is about to become final, we are treated to some humorous exchanges with Hutton which serve to off set the implied terror of not knowing when Turturro is going to step out of a closet or stroll out from behind a tree. We should mention also we suppose that Maria Bello plays Mort's wife Amy and is mostly forgettable in a role that doesn't demand much more of her than looking aggrieved and blonde, which she pulls off without a hitch.

Secret Window is typical Stephen King in many ways complete with the isolated struggling author figure, the New England woods, the hapless wife who gets blamed for not understanding moody, writer like traits, the strange pet, the eerie window perhaps with secret properties - all of which were lifted from the short story. The movie's director David Koepp tries to put his own hand on the work by utilizing all sorts of Hitchcockian camera angles and dropping cinematic hints all over the place as to the movie's eventual outcome. If you pay close attention, this is one you should be able to figure out by the time it all comes together but the problem we had was that ridiculous nonsensical decisions and unexplained actions that defy common sense are so typical to characters in this genre that one is never sure if they are catching clues to a legitimate resolution or simply watching more stupid behavior on screen and the crappy direction thereof. In the end, Secret Window has a little of both but with Depp's solid performance, and an ending that somewhat makes sense within the context of the film, it isn't bad entertainment. Especially if the alternative involves being subjected to two hours of the flogging, flaying and nailing up of someone who, despite the atrocities perpetuated in his name in the days since, was probably a pretty cool guy.

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