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This week:
Secret Window

Filthy says:
"Secret Window, Obvious Crap.

A good movie with a bad ending is like a relationship. You're madly in love, you're happy as can be, and the other person loves you back. The feeling is so strong that you stop wondering why the hell she likes you, and just bathe in her warmth (and occasionally a shower). You find yourself doing all this extra shit that's only worth doing because you love someone else: late-night walks, proper hygiene, not stop drinking but do a better job of hiding it, or phone sex (trust me, masturbating feels even stupider to a dial tone, unless you're drunk enough to imagine it's a really hot girl who only says "Bzzzzzzzzz."). That sort of sacrifice feels good when you're madly in love.

You also forgive so many flaws because you're overwhelmed by sensations of deep affection. Sure she isn't perfect, but you love her and will ignore the fact that she brushes her teeth every fucking night or takes out the trash before even trying to stuff it down. This time, God dammit, the love is going to last.

Then, it all goes as sour as a carton of yogurt left in the back seat for two weeks. Just when you've committed to her and her quirks something goes wrong. Maybe it's her fault, like she catches you hiding in her closet. Or maybe it's nobody's fault, like one night when you're really drunk you go over to her house and trip over a terracotta dog by the front door and it pisses you off so you throw it through the window. She calls the cops and when they show up they make fun of you for crying. Now she won't take your calls or answer her door, or ask the judge to reduce the distance in the restraining order.

When a relationship ends shitty, it's awfully hard to remember what you saw in her in the first place. All the warmth, the love and the goodness is shot to shit, and all you're left with is a deep stinging resentment, a kind of pressure that builds up behind the eyeballs and feels like it won't go away until you burn her lawn, write mean things about her on the Internet, or scratch something mean into the hood of her new car. That actually works. It does make you feel better. But it doesn't help you remember the love you shared or why you once liked her.

That's the way Secret Window is. It's a passable movie, certainly as attractive and no more flawed than a few of the girlfriends I met while I was performing my community service at the girl's prison. But the ending is as shitty and unlikable as breaking up with a girl when you discover she tells her psychiatrist everything about you, and also fucks him. And then tells you that he has a bigger dick. And is a better kisser. And not nearly as whiny. Oh yeah, and funnier. What the fuck was that about? I can take the dick comments, but my fart jokes are awesome.

In this adaptation of yet another Stephen King novella, Johnny Depp plays a mystery writer in the midst of an ugly divorce who is accused of stealing a story from a mysterious hillbilly, John Turturro. Turturro visits Depp's lake cottage and then starts up a campaign of increased terror, demanding that Depp fix the ending of his story. He kills Depp's dog, burns down his ex-wife's house, and kills townsfolk near the quaint cottage. Depp can prove he didn't steal the story, but Turturro doesn't seem to care. He's hellbent on changing the story's ending.

That's Secret Window's set up, and it's pretty predictable. Certainly nothing new for Stephen King; he's been turning over the same tormented writer soil for years. It's done well, though. The movie's first hour has a lot of flaws I forgave because I liked it. And then, like a crazy girl who goes totally ballistic just because you ate her mascara, the movie breaks your heart. As I watched the movie, the one thing I kept thinking was, "Please don't let this be one of those stupid movies where the twist is that Depp is crazy and there is no stalker." SPOILER ALERT: I am about the give away the ending. Oh, shit, I already did. That's okay, the movie does too.

It's easy to sniff the odor of a shitty ending early in Secret Window. I pegged this one as the kind where the main character talks to himself and overacts as he realizes he's nuts and there is no stalker. But then I sort of thought that not even the biggest grassfucker in Hollywood would rehash an ending that obvious. I mean, if I were getting paid millions of bucks, I sure wouldn't be thinking "What can I do that everyone's seen before?"

But the evidence piles up like crap in a National Park portajohn. When Johnny Depp finally has his nutso conversation with a mirror image, followed by a montage showsing how he duped himself and committed the crimes, all I felt was the same sort of letdown I've felt after a girlfriend calls the cops on me for banging on her windows at three a.m. begging for her to let me come in and drink her bath water. I hate predictable endings, especially such easy and obvious ones. What the fuck is the point of having a twist if it's the "surprise" everyone's expecting, and that you've telegraphed for the last hour? Who the fuck thought this was original? Similarly, to all my ex-girlfriends: if you really wanted to surprise me you shouldn't have called the cops. Let me come in and have sex with you. Seriously, I would never have expected that.

Writer-Director David Koepp seems to think that ripping off Alfred Hitchcock is as good as being Hitchcock. Just like with Panic Room, which he wrote, Secret Window rips off the old Bernard Hermann soundtracks and the writing steals the visual cues of the master. Only, in Koepp's work they are strapped to shit stories without the depth or cleverness to hold them. As a director, Koepp needs to work on not being so fucking ponderous. The movie is obvious because Koepp is so single-minded. The red herrings are obviously fake, and the real clues are delivered with too heavy a hand.

But Depp is good, sort of itchy and believable as a misanthropic writer. John Turturro is given the thankless role of being a one-dimensional hillbilly with an accent as thick and gnarled as the gristle on a Sizzler steak. It's supposed to be okay for him to be one-dimensional because he's simply a figment of Depp's imagination. That still doesn't make his performance any more fun to sit through, though.

There are two morals to the story: first, never fall in love because it's sure to end badly and you'll want to piss on someone's garden. Second, well fuck, I can't remember. But what I said about not falling in love is worth repeating. Two Fingers for Secret Window.

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Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times

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Filthy's Reading
Nicholson Baker- The Fermata

Listening to
Dead Milkmen- Big Lizard in my Backyard


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