Spoilers will pester you until you set things right
I normally use this feature for older films that are personal classics of mine. Usually they are dated pre-2000, but in this case I think it still applies. This one’s a feature that I initially saw and didn’t think much of it, but became a better watch after repeated viewing years later. It also helps that it’s a movie about the writing process as well. Our protagonist is a lazy bum that would rather take a nap that deal with writing a new book or finalizing his divorce.
Secret Window (2004) was written and directed by David Koepp, from on his own screenplay which is of course based on the original novel by Stephen King. Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) seems determined to not finish anything. He sleeps all day instead of working, insist he’s not smoking anymore except when he does and he’s not putting any effort in finalizing his divorce. Mort still remembers the day he caught his ex-wife Amy (Maria Bello) with her now fiancée Ted (Timothy Hutton).
Mort’s slow and lazy days end when he receives an unexpected vistor. A stranger by the name of John Shooter (John Turturro) has come all the way from Mississippi to call him out for plagiarism. Shooter thinks that Mort stole a story of his and is not leaving until things are set right. Shooter seems determined and obsessed, but initially he’s only a nuisance. Things are bound to escalate and soon he proves himself a dangerous fellow. Here’s where I’ve actually changed my point of view. I used to think of the third act as messy and improvised, but now I see it called out very much from the start.
When I saw it originally, I was annoyed by both characters from Mort and Shooter. The movie oscillates with Mort’s character, as it all seems to start on the motel on the night that he discovered his wife Amy with Ted. Even then, he was talking to himself. It’s only by the third act that Mort truly loses himself to his own creative impulse and breaks his own fourth wall. Johnny Depp doesn’t have to stretch too far to play Mort Rainey. On the other hand, Turturro is the one to remember with his quiet furious depiction of John Shooter.
It’s not completely solid on its execution. Depp’s Mort Rainey never really seems particularly scared or stressed, he’s more or less always chilled. At worst, he just seems annoyed by Shooter. He does put more a little more gravitas in his interactions with Amy and Ted, where he looks legitimately pissed. Also, in more spoiler-ish territory, Mort definitely loses his watch inside the car before it plummets down the cliff. That was an obvious clue that the movie seems to forget altogether.
Recommended with reservations. I feel that at first watch, one would see tone inconsistencies, and perhaps to a certain point those still remain until they realize what’s going on. Still, it’s one of those films that has little easter eggs and calls to other films as well as hints as what’s to come later. They do become clearer on repeated views, but the movie is also a lot more obvious once you’ve watched it once so the premise weakens. If you saw it at a younger age and didn’t think much it, I think it’s worth revisiting a few years later. I appreciate the ending a whole lot more. After all, the ending is the best part of the story. Whether that’s the case in this film is debatable.
That will do for now.