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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: The Secret



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#1 of 1 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

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  • Real Name:Cameron Yee
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Posted August 26 2008 - 06:54 PM

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The Secret

Release Date: Available now (original release date August 12, 2008)
Studio: Image Entertainment
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc DVD case
Year: 2007
Rating: R
Running Time: 1h32m
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
Subtitles: English SDH and Spanish
MSRP: $27.98

The Feature: 3.5/5
In the comedy "Freaky Friday" a mother and daughter swapped minds and learned what it was like to walk a mile in each others' shoes. In the drama "The Secret," the mind transfer only goes one direction and is less about the notion of empathy than it is about the phenomenon itself.

The territory that's covered is interesting most of the time, as Ben Marris (David Duchovny) must figure out how to relate to his daughter Sam (Olivia Thirlby), who is playing host to his deceased wife Hannah (Lili Taylor). If you think that sets up some creepily inappropriate scenarios, you're right, but that's only one of the conundrums. The other is how a 30-something woman deals with a second chance at life, to do what she may have dreamed about but sacrificed to support her husband and raise a child. And though the serious treatment of the premise allows for some thought-provoking drama, it also proves to be the film's weakness as it ultimately plays more like a good acting exercise than a complete story. The final act is the most telling - needing to bring things to a close, the script weakly turns to the empathy message as its raison-d'etre, when it was so clearly more than that in its most compelling moments.

But the actors more than live up to the dramatic challenges of those meatier sections, in particular Thirlby, who handily and uncannily invokes Taylor's portrayal of Hannah. Note that distinction - she didn't do her own version of the character, she did what was previously established by another actor, down to the mannerisms and vocal inflection. I've always thought "Juno" was good, but not the best, work by Ellen Page. Turns out that's even more the case for Thirlby (who did supporting work in that film as Juno's best friend Leah). Keep an eye on Thirlby - she's going places.

Taylor is a surprise in a different way. So used to seeing her in "edgy," often unattractive roles, I found she cleans up rather nicely and showed she is as convincing as a wife and mother as she is a disturbed misanthrope.

Duchovny is equally fine in his role as a perplexed and grieving husband and father, though I couldn't help thinking the character he's most identified with wouldn't have to go to the library to learn about the phenomenon of mind transference.

Overall "The Secret" has more to appreciate than criticize, offering some thought-provoking scenarios and equally compelling performances. It is worth at least a rental.


Video Quality: 3.5/5
The picture is free of physical defects but displays some mild edge enhancement. Black levels can be inconsistent, showing a tendency to be washed out in the final third of the film and on the whole a bit crushed. Detail is very good, skin showing visible texture, but moire and shimmer crop up in areas with fine, tight patterns.


Audio Quality: 3.5/5
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix provides some surround and front channel activity, but mostly for soundtrack support. The film's sole action scene engages the entire speaker array, but otherwise it's a center channel affair, with dialogue that is consistently clear and intelligible.


Special Features: 2.5/5

Theatrical Trailer (2m05s)

Behind the Scenes (8m14s): A no-frills presentation of some on-set video footage provides a glimpse into film production.

Interviews: Approximately 30 minutes of interviews with Taylor, Duchovny and Thirlby as they talk about their characters and the story.

Recap

The Feature: 3.5/5
Video Quality: 3.5/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 2.5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5

Excellent performances, particularly from Thirlby, anchor a film that starts out strong but has a limp final act. The DVD release includes decent audio and video treatment and a basic, but focused, special features package.



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