Macabre master Stephen King always loves to play with our minds. One of his infamous headshrinker short stories has been sculpted for the big screen.
In his short story, “Secret Window, Secret Garden”, author Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) is going through a miserable divorce and even worse he is crippled by a mean streak of “writer’s block”. Rainey can hardly concentrate until a stranger appears at his front door.
The man is John Shooter (John Turturro), an infuriated Southern writer who claims that Rainey is guilty of plagiarism and he will stop at nothing to set the record straight. How can both their manuscripts be identical? Furthermore how far is Shooter willing to go to torment Rainey into submission? Are Rainey’s ex-wife (Maria Bello) and her new lover (Timothy Hutton) at risk? Does Rainey care at this point?
The sculptor behind “Secret Window” is veteran screenwriter David Koepp who has penned huge blockbuster franchises like “Jurassic Park”, “Mission: Impossible” and “Spider-Man”. What seems to be the key to Koepp’s success is how he is able to breakdown a novel or graphic-novel into a strong screenplay which such finesse. Some of his treatments have been utterly brilliant.
His adaptation for “Secret Window” is one of those brilliant scripts. He has laced the main character Rainey with a sarcastic, explosive wit that is sure to tickle anyone’s funny bone.
I also loved how the script called for Depp to be alone a lot of the time but we never got bored with him.
This gave the film an almost live theatre presentation. I also really enjoyed the script for its embracing of the writing process.
The script reminded me so much of my own pitfalls and successes as a writer. That was quite fun.
In the mid-90s, Koepp even directed some of his own scripts like “The Trigger Effect” and the much underrated “Stir of Echoes”. Koepp’s eye and fluid sense of direction seems to grow with every project.
In “Secret Window” that flowing direction breaks new barriers. I loved how Koepp was able to blend a lot of elements seamlessly as he would cascade around a room. Koepp’s attention to detail is so interesting to watch.
Watch for little details like what the Rainey character has half-open on his coffee table. Aside from the interesting work of Koepp and a once more brilliant performance from Depp, “Secret Window” does have some flaws.
As the film progressed I found that the plot of the film reminded me of another Stephen King adaptation, 1993’s “The Dark Half” which uncannily starred “Secret Window” co-star Timothy Hutton. Was it on purpose that Hutton was cast?
The reasons for my recollections were mainly due to the fact that the stories seemed to mirror each other in some ways.
Both of the stories starred an author who is having troubles with his past and family. Without giving the films away the endings are quite similar in a lot of respects.
The crazy thing is that both film adaptations were vastly different, “Dark Half” was very dark while “Secret Window” is quite light with creepy undertones. I did like“Secret Window” better because of how the project was approached. We actually like the lead character in this story.
According to Stephen King’s website, King wrote “Secret Window” after “Dark Half”. Do these two stories have a common thread on purpose? Did one influence the other?
Aside from the strong case of déjà vu, I really enjoyed “Secret Window”. The humor, cinematography and crafty direction made it a joy to watch. Depp and Koepp make for an interesting viewing.
4 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer