Almost a pop history of Western culture's relationship to female orgasm, Charlie Stratton's In Secret is a spirited zip through Zola's sex-and-death morality tale Thérèse Raquin. The first half digs into ennui dating back to the dawn of monogamy: In 1860s Paris, a young woman gets impressed into marriage with a dope (Tom Felton) who beds her with the dull passion he might apply to eating oatmeal. Downstairs, that dope's mother (played with magnificent dudgeon by Jessica Lange) tends a fabric shop, the daughter-in-law, to her mind, just another needle to be threaded. Since Thérèse, that daughter-in-law, is played by Elizabeth Olsen, whose eyes hunger like no one else's in film, we know this cannot last, especially once Thérèse makes the acquaintance of a well-sculpted painter played by Oscar Isaac. Isaac's Laurent may not be exactly what she needs as a person, but good Lord will he do as a lover. And he does. Sooner than you might expect, these two have tumbled into bed, where they conjugate each other like gloriously dirty verbs. As they couple, no audience member could ever think this isn't going to lead to doom. It's mildly dispiriting that the doom that comes is potboiler stuff, the lovers collapsing their triangle into a simple two-point line. Still, the last third veers into delicious hysterics, giving Lange's matriarch the chance to wail and gnash and snack upon the scenery. Like Thérèse, the mother finds one thing worth feeling and goes all in; like Stratton's accomplished and hugely entertaining movie, she's somehow silly and momentous at the same time.
Charlie StrattonJessica Lange, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Felton, Shirley Henderson, Oscar Isaac, Matt Lucas, Mackenzie Crook, John Kavanagh, Lily LaightNeal BellRoadside Attractions