Every Secret Thing (2014)

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Hey, at least they got a child actress who looks a little like a young Dakota Fanning. That’s something, I guess. :/

Ronnie Fuller (Dakota Fanning) and Alice Manning (Danielle MacDonald) are out of juvie, incarcerated for an unthinkable crime they committed as little girls (where they are played by Eva Grace Kellner and Brynne Norquist.) It is a truth universally acknowledged that baby-killers never catch a break (poor homicidal dears,) so when another child goes missing, Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) is on the case, sorting the ugly lies from the even uglier truth.

Despite a decent cast, ‘Every Secret Thing’ falls a bit flat. It rings even more false when compared to “Boy A,” a British drama film with a slightly similar premise. While “Boy A” had strong characters and outstanding acting jobs from the entire cast, “Every Secret Thing” feels, at best, like an extended cop-show episode. That is not to say, however, that “Every Secret Thing” does not have its charms.

There is some enjoyment to be had in seeing the mystery unfold, and the acting is decent, if not exactly award-worthy. Figuring out what really happened is based mostly upon sorting out the unreliable testimonies from the two girls. Alice, a outwardly sweet, obese teen, seems like the most vulnerable, but a second glance alerts you to the fact that she’s a bit of a manipulative twat. Her ditzy mother (Diane Lane) is not cooperating with the police force, but does that make Alice the main instigator?

Ronnie, on the other hand, a blunt Goth girl, seemed to have been the main offender in the murder of the infant seven years ago. It is fun to try to figure out the truth behind all the bullshit, or maybe the girls are equally guilty, each a malevolent little psychopath who found her own perfect match in the other. The presentation of this mystery, though, is pretty standard. A lot of investigating by a tough yet vulnerable lady detective, talk talk talk, followed by a big confession accompanied by some incrementing cop-show-esque flashbacks.

“Fargo” this is not. It’s a perfectly efficiently acted and directed motion picture. But it’s also painfully paint-by-numbers, a decently designed thriller without a new idea in it’s head. Not to mention the outright implausibility of some of the scenarios. They’re horrifying, yes, but that doesn’t mean they’re particularly believable.

Danielle MacDonald is cute and looks kind of like a chubby Shailene Woodley, but Woodley she is not. Although she does okay in most of her scenes, watching her screw her face up and try to cry at the end, only to eventually give up and settle on an irate scowl, is just plain awkward. She’s not bad at all, more like a little underwhelming, but can she or Fanning compare to Andrew Garfield in “Boy A?” Not by a long shot.

On the up side, a person close to me has convinced me to read the book adaptation of “Every Secret Thing” by Laura Lippman saying it is ‘much better’ and ‘more complex.’ than the movie. “Every Secret Thing” is not unwatchable, but it is unlikely to stick in my head in the long run.

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