The key tenet of Rhonda Byrne’s mystical self-help blockbuster The Secret is that if one desires and then really thinks about something hard enough then it will ultimately appear. If this tracks then somewhere, deep in America, one of the book’s many superfans has been close to bursting a blood vessel visualising a $20 rental of a once theatrically aimed movie adaptation, mood-boarding a costly night in with a middle-of-the-road sub-Nicholas Sparks pile of soap bubbles. It’s a frothy, forgettable translation of the hit book that takes its central belief system and uses it as the basis for a vaguely magical romantic drama for moms.
It’s mostly kind of tolerable in a low stakes, rosé-wine-swigging way, inoffensively middling rather than rotten, an easy, undemanding afternoon watch with nothing of note other than a few laughably dumb moments. It stars Katie Holmes as Miranda, a widow caring for three kids while struggling to get by financially. Her life is an assemblage of “OK, sure” issues: she eats too much salt water taffy but can’t afford the root canal that follows, her daughter wants a computer but she can’t afford one for her birthday, her house isn’t storm-ready but she can’t afford to move etc, etc. The last thing Miranda needs is another problem that she can’t afford to fix so when she crashes into a car, it pushes her to breaking point.
Luckily said car is being driven by friendly yet unintentionally creepy stranger Bray (Josh Lucas) who offers to fix it up for her and when a hurricane then hits the family home, he offers to fix that too. Bray’s outlook on life mirrors that of the source material but he also has a secret, that isn’t The Secret, which, as they always do in these movies, is about to change everyone’s lives forever.
Working with a script that alternates poor, perfunctory dialogue with lazy, limited stereotypes, Holmes somehow manages to charm her way through the wreckage. She’s not always been an actor who’s shown a great deal of versatility or even basic capability (she was particularly awful in her other colonic film of the year Brahms: The Boy II) but she glides through this admirably, trying medium-hard to sell the repetitive issues her character comes up against. The problem she faces is that nothing here feels even remotely real, no character interacts with another in a way that seems believable, like it were written by an agoraphobe who hadn’t met a single soul for decades and instead based their view of humanity on Lifetime movies. Maybe some Hallmark ones too. No one expects gritty realism here but in order to sell both family drama and romance, there needs to be a bit more specificity, a bit more vibrancy, a world on screen that at least somewhat resembles the one we live in.
Lucas is an oddly unsettling presence here, giving an insight into what a darker version of The Secret might look like. His intense blue-eyed stare and self-possessed perma-smile could be seamlessly transplanted into a recut trailer making the film look like a psycho-thriller. So while we’re not exactly clamoring for that kiss, given that we would fear for her family’s safety from then on, we soldier on anyway, buoyed by the basic half-pleasure of half-watching what’s essentially a daytime soap with a slightly improved budget. It’s also a bit like watching one of the many faith-based dramas that have hit in the last decade but, bar one use of the G word (when Lucas, *rolls eyes*, references an Einstein quote) it’s more spiritual than religious and if anything Buddhism is referenced more than Christianity. The Field of Dreams-adjacent “if you think it, it will happen” way of living treads a fine line between encouraging positivity and suggesting a rather dangerously removed fatalism, as if working hard isn’t merely as powerful as believing in a form of magic and the film never quite figures out where it lands here (a hilariously convoluted last act development involving a day-saving energy patent pushes it into wild fantasy).
Director Andy Tennant, who has made a couple of decent films (Ever After, Hitch) and some genuinely God-awful ones (The Bounty Hunter, Fool’s Gold) does the bare minimum here and it’s only in the film’s bookending journeys to the universe, that he tries to give it the same scale as Byrne’s original text. The Secret has sold an estimated 30m copies worldwide but there’s no amount of dreamy thinking that will see its adaptation reaching even a fraction of that.
Source: The Guardian