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Every Secret Thing (2014)

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We’re never too happy to learn about kids committing serious crimes – say, kidnap and murder. When a three and a half year old half caste girl disappears in a small town attention falls on two teenaged girls recently released from juvenile detention for a startlingly similar crime involving a baby seven years earlier. Elizabeth Banks is the detective tasked with deja vu:  she found the first baby’s body and the child’s mother alerts her to the recent return of morbidly obese Alice (Danielle McDonald) and pretty Ronnie (Dakota Fanning) who she’s convinced must be involved. The story unfolds in repeated flashbacks showing that Alice’s mom Helen (Diane Lane), a schoolteacher ambitious for her charges, clearly prefers working class Ronnie to her own chubby daughter with kinky blonde hair. They were thrown out of a birthday party Helen forced Alice to attend with Ronnie, precipitating the original crime. Both teenagers, never friends and now avoiding each other, are now under questioning but not arrest, offer different versions of events. Alice claims innocence and blames Ronnie for the new disappearance. She says everyone wants to hate the fat girl and she was wrongly implicated in the first crime (and we see just how and by who). Laura Lippman’s novel was adapted by Nicole Holofcener at the request of Frances McDormand, who wanted her to direct. It’s a puzzling film in many ways – the obsession with half caste children is never fully revealed albeit something that happened to reality-TV obsessed Alice  gives us only minor insight yet it’s a major clue to the psychopathology of this girl and the mother who seems like the nicest woman in the world and what she might have reared. There’s a lot of good stuff here but it never wholly convinces despite the canny casting and writing. Directed by Amy Berg.

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About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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