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Depp lifts film past predictability

Mark Bemenderfer | Wednesday, March 17, 2004

All work and no play fortunately do not make Depp a dull boy. In a rather short period of time, Depp has managed to propel himself from a niche actor to one of Hollywood’s hottest names. Secret Window, directed by David Koepp, helps to solidify Depp’s rising popularity in Hollywood.Depp has always been a minor star in Hollywood. He has a rather impressive resume with over thirty films to his credit. However, it wasn’t until Pirates of the Caribbean came out that Depp really became a household name, while his follow-up, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, didn’t set many fires, it was a solid mainstream movie that once again showcased Depp’s talents. Without Depp, Secret Window is merely an average movie with fairly predictable twists and no real memorable moments. With Depp, Secret Window is a terrific movie.In a way, this is Depp’s first starring role since he gained his newfound popularity. In Pirates of the Caribbean, he had Orlando Bloom and Geoffrey Rush to help carry the film. In Mexico, Depp had Antonio Banderas and Willem Dafoe, among others, to lighten the burden. Secret Window is centered solely upon Depp’s character, Mort Rainey. And Depp pulls it off, carrying the entire movie.One thing true about Depp is that he brings the characters that he plays to life. Mort Rainey is a truly sympathetic character. He has quirks, much like Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean, that help to flesh out the character. These peculiarities worsen as Rainey’s mental condition continues to erode throughout the film. It should be noted that the trailer paints this movie as almost a supernatural thriller. This is not true. It is about a writer, who after an unfortunate turn of circumstances finds himself haunted by John Turturro’s character John Shooter, who also happens to be a fellow writer. The events that happen in this movie could really happen to be just about anyone, as neither the stalker nor circumstances supernatural.The instances in the trailer that you see are the touches of Stephen King shining through, as he wrote the short story (“Secret Window, Secret Garden”) that the movie is based on. However, this movie also owes a lot to Alfred Hitchcock, as many of the elements of the film seem borrowed from the master of suspense. The hero appears ordinary whose only real fault is some bad luck. The nemesis also appears fairly average. The plot itself is fairly simple without too many bells or whistles. Personally, there are worse combinations than a King/Hitchcock combo. Freddy Got Fingered comes to mind. However, these very traits can be the movies own downfall for some. Those with a familiarity of either King or Hitchcock’s work will often find this movie rather predictable, or even dull. Those with a familiarity of both will find themselves recounting the other movies or books that shared similar plot points. For those people, this movie may still be worth a watch just for Depp’s portrayal of Mort Rainey. Able to evoke laughs, chills, sympathy, sometimes without even delivering dialogue, Depp made the movie more than merely watchable.