As ‘In Secret’ drags on, monotony comes into play

Within the pages of an 1867 Emile Zola novel lie the seeds of film noir.

The hothouse cravings and bloody deeds contained in “Therese Raquin” travel in a straight line to James M. Cain’s “Double Indemnity” and “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” books that became a poisoned wellspring for the tawdry postwar American cinema known as noir.

Zola gives you the skeleton of the form, fleshed out with a bored married woman, a handsome artist, sexual combustion, and murder.

This corker has been newly filmed, in its original period setting, as “In Secret,” a stolid version of the story.

Rising star Elizabeth Olsen (“Martha Marcy May Marlene”) plays the central role. Therese has been raised by her fearsome aunt (Jessica Lange, almost but not quite breaking through to something formidable), whose own son Camille (Tom Felton) has been a sickly near-brother to Therese during childhood.

Therese is forced to marry Camille as a practical matter when the family moves to Paris, a move that puts Therese in proximity to Camille’s work friend Laurent (Oscar Isaac, from “Inside Llewyn Davis”).

Laurent fancies himself a painter, but Isaac has the eyes of a born sensualist, and one imagines Laurent has spent more time chasing other men’s wives than perfecting his brushstrokes.

He and Therese ignite; murder occurs; the descent into anxiety and guilt commences. But maybe guilt is the wrong word — there’s the sense that Therese and Laurent are mostly bored again and disgusted by what they’ve done. Without the thrill of adultery, even their bodies don’t interest them much. We killed a guy for this?

“In Secret” is the feature debut for director-writer Charlie Stratton, who does low-rent atmosphere just fine but flattens the action into a steady, dreary slog.

His best decision is casting Olsen, whose quick responses show us how Therese’s ennui mutates into desire with uncontrollable force.

And by the way, “Harry Potter” fans, Tom Felton (who played Harry’s nemesis Draco Malfoy throughout the series) is much more spirited in adult form than he ever was at Hogwarts; his Camille is pasty-faced, sincere and maybe not too bright.

These sparks aren’t enough to slap the movie into shape. This is a story that needs the relentless motion of a whirlpool, but dribbles away well before the end.

“In Secret” (two stars)

A straight, dreary adaptation of Emile Zola’s novel “Therese Raquin,” with Elizabeth Olsen and Oscar Isaac as the illicit lovers whose passion leads to murder. Well acted, but everything gets monotonous as it goes along.

Rated: R for nudity, subject matter.

Showing: Seven Gables.

More in Life

‘Last Jedi’ is the best ‘Star Wars’ movie since the first one

This instant-classic popcorn movie makes clever references to the past while embracing the new.

Jesse Sykes brings her evolving sounds to Cafe Zippy in Everett

She and Phil Wandscher make a return trip to a club that she values for its intimacy.

Red wine usually costs more, but you can still find bargains

Here are five good-quality reds that won’t drain your grocery budget.

Beer of the Week: Skull Splitter and Blood of My Enemies

Aesir Meadery of Everett and Whiskey Ridge Brewing of Arlington collaborated to make two braggots.

Beer, wine, spirits: Snohomish County booze calendar

Ugly Sweater Party and Canned Food Drive at Whitewall: Marysville’s Whitewall Brewing… Continue reading

Student winners to perform concertos with Mukilteo orchestra

This annual show is a partnership with the Snohomish County Music Teachers Association.

‘Ferdinand’ a modern take on the beloved children’s story

The lovable bull is back in an enjoyable but spotty animated film from the makers of “Ice Age.”

Playwright alleges misconduct by Hoffman when she was 16

A classmate of Dustin Hoffman’s daughter says the actor exposed himself in 1980.

Art mimicks reality in engrosing ‘On the Beach at Night Alone’

The Korean film tells the story of an actress recovering from an affair with a married director.

Most Read