Friday, November 20, 2015

Secret In Their Eyes

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 1:42 PM

It’s no secret that there’s a dearth of juicy roles for women over 30 in Hollywood. Given the experienced, talented actresses available and the fact that female led films have done extremely in the box office the last few years, the only reason this inequality persists is down to the biases of the old men in charge.

Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, and Chiwetel Ejiofor try to figure out what the hell is going on in Secret In Their Eyes
  • Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, and Chiwetel Ejiofor try to figure out what the hell is going on in Secret In Their Eyes

Unfortunately, the roles Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts get in Secret In Their Eyes may sound juicy on paper, but in practice, they’re not doing anybody any favors. Kidman plays Clare, a Los Angeles district attorney who accessorizes her business suits with clenched jaw and no-nonsense gaze. Roberts plays Jess, a high ranking police detective haunted by the death of her daughter. Their male counterpart is Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who is on a leave of absence from his job as the head of security for the New York Mets.
The story takes place in two time frames. We enter in roughly the present, when Ray returns to L.A. After a 13 year absence to tell Clare and Jess he’s had a breakthrough in the cold case of the murder of Jess’ daughter Carolyn (Zoe Graham). Then we flash back to 2002, when Ray, Clare, and Jess were co-workers on the police counterterrorism squad, survieling a mosque populated by dangerous radicals. Carolyn’s body is found in the dumpster behind the mosque, which complicates the circumstances of the investigation, especially when the prime suspect turns out to be an FBI informant.

The film’s bifurcated structure is the most interesting thing about Secret In Their Eyes, but it can’t save the incredibly ham handed script. This is an adaptation of a 2009 Argentine film that won the Best Foreign Language Oscar, and the adjustments to the story necessary to transport it from the days of the 1970s military junta to contemporary America render the story largely nonsensical. It’s supposed to be about three good cops whose worldviews are shaken and ethics tested when a horrible crime hits too close to home, but instead it comes off as the story of three cops who are very bad at their jobs, but keep getting promoted anyway. In an inexplicable middle passage where Ray and his old pal Bumpy (Dean Norris, playing off his Breaking Bad character) descend into a buddy cop comedy, the alleged hero of the piece completely blows the investigation by breaking into the suspect’s house without a warrant and stealing his possessions, which are then rendered inadmissible as evidence.

The strangely baseball-obsessed script takes pains to remind us that Kidman’s character is from Philadelphia, but yet she slips in an out of an Aussie accent. Ejiofor seems to be channeling Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon. Roberts has one note: bottomless depression, punctuated by fits of lashing out and crying. By the time we got to the first of two—count ‘em, two!—big twist endings, the audience I saw the film with was openly laughing, which I don’t think was the emotional response director Billy Ray was trying to evoke. It’s never a good sign when my notes for a movie include the word “shitshow” with two underlines, but it certainly applies here. 

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