Writer off the Depp End
Stephen King maybe a great horror writer but his movies don't always translate well into movies and "Secret Window" is one of those movies which whilst not terrible struggles. Why? Well I am not sure whether it is the tone or just the tone in which Johnny Depp plays the lead character of Mort Rainey, a writer who finds himself threatened by a man who claims he plagiarized his story because Depp takes what is a quirky character, a reclusive eccentric and makes him amusing. Now the character is fun but then the knock on effect of this is that we have this playful tone which when you have a thriller doesn't quite gel, it causes it to lose atmosphere and tension so that you end up watching it because Depp is fun rather than for the mystery of what is going on.
6 months after catching his wife Amy (Maria Bello - Coyote Ugly) in a motel with Ted (Timothy Hutton), writer Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp - Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) is holed up in his lakeside cabin trying to write but spending more time sleeping on his couch. But then he receives a knock at the door from a man calling himself John Shooter (John Turturro) who proclaims that Mort copied his story, handing him a copy of his manuscript which is almost identical to his published story. As Mort tries to deal with the situation Shooter becomes increasingly threatening and forcing Mort not only to try and prove he wrote the story first but also forcing him to seek help in the shape of former NY cop Ken Karsch (Charles S. Dutton).
I have a question for you? How closely do you follow movies when they start or do you struggle to pay attention until something dramatic grabs your eye? If your answer is the latter then you maybe in luck because within the opening scenes which takes us from the outside of the lake house, through a window and to a mirror there are several clues which if you spot them will suggest exactly what the story is. And to be honest even if you don't see these clues it doesn't take a lot to have you thinking certain things about the story and who exactly the threatening John Shooter is.
Now what that means is that firstly once you latch on to a theory as to what is happening "Secret Window" becomes a bit of a cliche which plays out and only verifies your feelings. But secondly it means that I can't explain to you how clever "Secret Window" is when it comes to examining the life of a writer because in many ways that is where the movie ends up being more interesting. To explain would to give the game away and whilst I am sure most people will guess what is going on it would be unfair to say so I will just say think of what is happening in context of a life of a writer to appreciate the actual intelligence of the writing.
But here is my problem, we have reclusive and quirky writer Mort Rainey who wears an old dressing gown with tears in and when he is not sleeping is having conversations with his dog. It's a great character and Johnny Depp plays him as very quirky, from his unkempt hair to the nervous mannerisms it is amusing. But it is too amusing as whilst not out and out comedy the character is too much fun and the knock on effect is a lack of tension and atmosphere. Director David Koepp actually stages every shot in a classic thriller style but because of the over quirkiness of Mort it dilutes that style and removes the atmosphere.
And to be honest whilst the cast of "Secret Window" also includes Charles S. Dutton, Timothy Hutton, Maria Bello and John Turturro they for the most end up ordinary. The exception is Turturro as Shooter because he is an ominous figure with his wide brimmed hat and forceful nature.
What this all boils down to is that "Secret Window" is entertaining but less for the actual story which for me ended up quite obvious but more for Depp's amusing characterisation of a reclusive, eccentric writer.