Some fantastic-looking movies like Me Earl and the Dying Girl, Inside Out, and Max are headed our way this summer, and I for one cannot wait. But sometimes a movie may look great, but turn out bad. Such is the case with Every Secret Thing. The crime thriller seemed a lock on paper,especially with names like Diane Lane, Dakota Fanning, Danielle Macdonald, Elizabeth Banks, and Amy Berg connected to it, but when it premiered in May, it barely turned any heads.
The premise of the Amy Berg-directed feature is your usual missing girl set-up with a twist. When little Britney goes missing in a furniture store, detectives Nancy Porter (Banks) and Kevin Jones (Nate Parker) set their eyes on Ronnie Fuller (Fanning) and Alice Manning (Macdonald), two 18 year-old teens recently released from juvenile detention for the abduction and murder of a baby seven years prior.
Elizabeth Banks does an okay job with her role. As she struggles to find the missing three year-old, she is visited by memories of the crime seven years before this one, her guilt driving her to work harder to find Britney, jeopardising her marriage in the process. While her performance as a detective does come off as believable (they even say it in the movie, she looks like a cop), her desire to solve the case in the crucial first 48 hours is anything but. She acts like she is desperately trying to find her, but it’s just that: acting. Otherwise, she does a fine job, but nothing a contemporary of her’s couldn’t pull off. Still, I admired the fact that she was the alpha in viewing her partnership with Detective Jones.
There’s somethif unstoppably likable about Dakota Fanning, no matter what role she plays. The actress just has an aptitude for performance you rarely find in newly-milennial actresses these days. While I think her choice of movies as a child actress was miles better, I feel like she has yet to find a role that would constitute a defining moment in her career. In Every Secret Thing, she does a fairly good job playing a troubled teen attempting to rehabilitate. The farther along the movie goes, the more you feel sad for her character Ronnie. And that comes courtesy of Fanning‘s talent. She’s the most relatable and human character in the film, and that’s the best quality about her. Fanning conveys Ronnie’s sense of guilt, depression, and absent-mindedness to full extent, delivering the best acting performance of the movie.
Danielle Macdonald makes her debut as a film-actress this year in two movies, this being one of them. Her character Alice falls at the center of the case as fingers start to point the girls’ way. While the Glee starlet does a good enough job here, Macdonald doesn’t seem to have the conviction necessary to carry off the movie. She holds her own in the presence of established actresses, but ultimately falls short of what the film requires, which is surprising, considering Berg‘s previous work has seen great leads. She needed to be meaner in some scenes and nicer in others, but instead fluctuated without the polarity of either. One thing she excels at, however, is keeping her character intact between past and present, as flashbacks of her childhood play along with the main premise. Here, it is just to praise Brynne Norquist for her portrayal of 11 year-old Alice.
For a movie about a missing person, there is barely any urgency. You start to question whether they actually want to find this child or not. What I mean is, they don’t make the viewer feel the need to find this child as soon as possible. I didn’t feel like a life was on the line, especially when considering blood was found early on. And as the main plot unravels, so do the events of the first abduction/murder. By means of simple interrogation, more details surface about the initial crime. But that leaves me wondering why the girls weren’t interrogated like that in the first place. It could have saved a life. Hello incompetency.
The main fault of the movie is that it tries to be things it is not, cramming unnecessary subplots that never get resolved in its short 93 minute run. For example, as mentioned earlier, Detective Porter faces marital problems, but they are never addressed. Even worse, there’s a running theme of racism all throughout the movie: the girls are white, the missing girl and the murdered baby from seven years earlier are black; the mother and father figure of the missing baby are white and black, respectively; Detective Porter is white, her partner is black (which could be horribly misconstrued if you take into account the alpha complex I mentioned earlier). And this, again, is not given its due. Even if the film tries to be implicit about the survival of racism until today, it does so very badly. Talk about an elephant in the room!
Overall, Every Secret Thing is a disappointing crime thriller that does nothing major for its viewers. It’s a movie you can finish watching, but not one you’ll remember down the line. Although it boasts some good elements, its flaws ultimately overthrow it. I can think of much, much better crime thrillers for you to watch.
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