'In Secret' review: Just a few reasons not to marry your cousin

'In Secret'

'In Secret' (February 13, 2014)

** (out of four)

You can’t blame Therese (Elizabeth Olsen) for feeling some lusty impatience. She’s spent the bulk of her life cooped up with her repressive aunt (Jessica Lange) and cousin Camille (Tom Felton), and even after she’s forced to marry Camille, he has minimal sexual interest in her. Not that he’s a catch or anything: This guy’s needy, awkward, sweaty, constantly sick and even more annoying than Felton’s Draco Malfoy in the “Harry Potter” movies.

So when Camille’s old pal Laurent (Oscar Isaac of “Inside Llewyn Davis”) turns up in Paris, it’s not long before he and his friend’s wife are doin’ it and doin’ it and doin’ it well. The heat and eroticism between Laurent and Therese is desire consummated hungrily, and their need to steal away sexy time only increases the breathlessness of their passion. There’s just the matter of Camille, a nuisance who seeks to bring Therese back to rural France, where he thought she was easier to keep happy.

What follows is a relationship that tumbles into chaos and a movie that follows suit. Imaginary video stores are filled with shelves and shelves of characters’ brilliant, dastardly plans that ultimately go awry, and writer-director Charlie Stratton (adapting Emile Zola’s 1867 novel “Therese Raquin”) overdoes his efforts to depict numerous kinds of drowning. While Olsen’s face reveals her character’s rising guilt (which isn’t exactly a turn-on), Isaac at times struggles to stay in the moment—and the film's already playing loose and fast with reality, with nothing but English being spoken in 19th century France.

I’m not a doctor, but it’s a bit surprising there’s little talk of pregnancy with all this unprotected action going on. It’s also disappointing the way the Hitchcock-meets-Shakespeare “In Secret” requires reckless shouting and convenient health issues in order to keep its plot going. As Therese and Laurent learn, excitement doesn’t always last, but “In Secret” should have kept it going a bit longer.

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