What a waste of talent. Despite a wealth of top notch individuals both in front of and behind the camera, Every Secret Thing is as uninspiring and anonymous as it gets. The narrative feature debut of documentarian Amy Berg, this police procedure/psychological thriller has shockingly little to offer. Besides completely miscasting Elizabeth Banks and Diane Lane, to name just two cast members, filmmaker in her own right Nicole Holofcener turns in an bizarrely weak screenplay. Everything about this movie is a missed opportunity, as you keep expecting this ship to suddenly right itself. That never happens, leading Every Secret Thing to fall deeper and deeper into both disappointment and mediocrity. Berg is a wonderful maker of documentaries and Holofcener is an acclaimed observer of human nature, often with a humorous bent, but they’re both out of their element and ill equipped for this flick. It wants to be a cross between Gone Girl and Prisoners, but it falls well short of that goal. In fact, it really falls short of just about any expectations that you might have for it. It’s never to the point where it becomes an overt travesty or something out and out awful, but it’s incredibly disappointing and a real let down. I went into Every Secret Thing with cautious optimism, but I left with the feeling of annoyance and indifference.
Right from the start, things begin on a rickety path due to a feeling of indifference all around. Anyway, we start out following put upon children Ronnie Fuller and Alice Manning as the girls deal with unpopularity and then the fallout of committing a horrible crime. Put in jail for the death of a child they kidnapped, seemingly in a spur of the moment rage, the now teens are out of prison and dealing with the aftermath. Ronnie (Dakota Fanning) has a job and is trying to keep a low profile, while Alice (Danielle Macdonald) lives with her mother (Lane) and looks to become a celebrity. At the same time, another young child goes missing, which hits home for Detective Nancy Porter (Banks), who is haunted by her failure to save the child last time. On the case with her partner (Nate Parker) she tries to figure out if either girl has anything to do with this potential new tragedy. Does this all sound potentially interesting? Yes, but it’s handled in such a lazy way that you wind up not caring early on. By the time the secondary twists arrive in the third act, you’ve already checked out.
The cast here really suggests something that should at least be interesting to watch for its performances, but the acting winds up just as mediocre as the rest of this production. Despite the hope that a slightly hard boiled role would really show off Elizabeth Banks in new light, she’s just wrong for the part. Her effort is there, but the direction doesn’t support her and she’s really just left out in the desert, in a way. The role is underdeveloped, and that’s putting it mildly. The same goes for everyone, though Dakota Fanning does occasionally get a halfway decent moment. The likes of Diane Lane (chewing what little scenery there is) and Nate Parker, however, are completely wasted, and that’s a true bummer. In fact, the former is poorly cast here as well, while the latter is just reduced to standing next to Banks a lot. Danielle Macdonald is pretty bland, while the supporting players all fade quickly into the background. Common is given nothing to do, and that goes doubly for the likes of Colin Donnell, Eva Grace Kellner, Brynne Norquist, and more. No one is able to survive this, so they all wind up drowning in an ocean of indifference.
One of the biggest curiosities going into Every Secret Thing for me was seeing how Amy Berg fares with fiction. The answer is…not well. It’s overly stylized, over-lit, and without any touch at all. Rob Hardy is a talented cinematographer, but he’s also given very little to work with. Berg has handled crime before with West of Memphis, and this pales in comparison. As for Nicole Holofcener, she’s the talented woman behind Enough Said, for example, but this is a throwaway script, and I’m being generous there. So much talent all around, but so little execution on display. This is only a little more than 90 minutes long, but it easily feels at least 150. Sigh.
Ultimately, Every Secret Thing is such a bland film I can’t even get too upset about it. The two star review is evidence of that. The effort level feels so low it’s almost as if this is the cinematic equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders, so I’m returning in kind. This is the sort of thing you pass by on cable and perhaps hover over for a few minutes, but that’s really it. Every Secret Thing is hardly worth your time, so move along folks…there’s nothing to see here.
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!