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Johnny Depp and David Koepp tackle Stephen King
on June 24, 2004
I know that I read "Secret Window, Secret Garden," the Stephen King novella that was the basis for David Koepp's 2004 film, but I had no conscious memory of the story when I sat down to watch the movie. But either I remembered something deep down inside or it was a mistake to cast Timothy Hutton, who starred in movie version of King's "The Dark Half," in a supporting role in this film because I quickly got to the point where I was wondering if I was reading the film wrong simply because it seemed so obvious to me what was going on.
The main attraction here is Johnny Depp, because he is one actor who can be counted on never to do anything boring and whose flair for eccentricity and his devotion to odd roles is now being taken as a sign of genius. Depp plays Mort Rainey, a writer who is out in the woods in a cabin, starring at a poorly written opening paragraph that is not getting any better. It soon becomes clear that his writer's block is the result of the fact he is in divorcing proceedings with his wife, Amy (Maria Bello); the opening scene of the film shows us the heart of that trauma. Struggling to deal with these twin demons Rainey is confronted by the sudden appearance of John Shooter (John Turturro), a forbidding looking figure who accuses the writer of plagiarizing a story and demands he put things to rights.
Mort is conflicted about his marriage and has no idea what to do with the blank sheet of paper in his typewriter. He wants to be definite about having written the story "Secret Window," but apparently in his deep dark past he plagiarized a story once and given the state he was in when he wrote the story, there just might be something about Shooter's claim. Clearly Mort is at a crossroads where his future could well be in peril (Come on, this is a Stephen King story; this guy is toast).
Depp's performance is captivating. It has to be, because he has a lot of scenes where it is just him and his blind dog or the mirror on the wall. But do not neglect the work of screenwriter-director Koepp ("Panic Room"), which you are not really going to be able to appreciate until the second time you watch "Secret Window" (in between watch the featurettes where the director give some key insights into what he was trying to do with the film). I would probably have liked this film more if I had gotten so far ahead of the curve, but I am still impressed with the craftsmanship of the lead actor and the director