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EVERY SECRET THING (director: Amy Berg; screenwriters: Nicole Holofcener/ based on the novel by Laura Lippman; cinematographer: Rob Hardy; editors: Ron Patane, Billy McMillan; music: Robin Coudert; cast: Diane Lane (Helen Manning), Elizabeth Banks (Nancy Porter), Dakota Fanning (Ronnie Fuller), Danielle Macdonald (Alice Manning), Nate Parker (Detective Jones), Renee Goldsberry (Cynthia Barnes), Sarah Sokolovic (Maveen Lyttle), Common (Devlin Hatch), Bill Sage (Dave Fuller), Tonya Patano (Clarice ), Eva Grace Kellner (Young Ronnie Fuller), Brynne Norquist (Young Alice Manning); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Frances McDormand/Anthony Bregman; Disarming Films/a Likely Story; 2014)
An unpleasant crime drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An unpleasant crime drama based on the 2003 mystery novel by Laura Lippman. Its ugly stance is not softened by the talented documentarian Amy Berg (“Deliver Us From Evil”/”West of Memphis”), trying her hand at narrative filmmaking for the first time. It is unevenly but sharply written by Nicole Holofcener.

In the small town of Orangetown, Helen Manning (Diane Lane) is a single mom teacher, who is ashamed to live with her obese and irredeemable loner 18-year-old daughter Alice (Danielle Macdonald). At age 8, Alice (Brynne Norquist) and her 8-year-old friend Ronnie (Eva Grace Kellner), from a trailer park, were convicted of murdering a mixed-race infant. The now released from prison Alice, after serving her 7 year prison term, is again under suspicion when a 3-year-old mixed-race baby goes missing.

Investigating the case is Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks), who also was on the first case. With her partner Detective Jones (Nate Parker), they start following up on their leads. The cops track down Ronnie Fuller (Dakota Fanning), now living at home and working in a bagel shop, and try to determine if the girls, no longer friends, were again involved.

The only way we figure out what is going down in this striking but difficult film to enjoy is when the director hits us with a few twists and we learn how this kidnapping ends differently for the suspected girls and the victim’s white mom (Sarah Sokolovic) and black stepfather (Common).

The disquieting film leaves us with main characters who are not very likable, in a film that is emotionally provocative but exasperating in how empty its resolution might leave us feeling. Nevertheless the brilliant delicate performance by Diane Lane gives the film its artful pose and makes it worth seeing for how haunting it is.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”