The infamous story of Benjamin Barker, AKA Sweeney Todd, who sets up a barber shop down in London which is the basis for a sinister partnership with his fellow tenant, Mrs. Lovett. Based on the hit Broadway musical.
Helena Bonham Carter,
Famed mystery writer, Mort Rainey (Depp) is confronted by a mysterious stranger outside his house. This stranger calls himself John Shooter (Turturro) and claims that Mort has stolen an idea for a story from him. Mort says he can prove he wrote his first, but whilst Mort waits for the evidence to appear, Shooter starts to become more and more violent. Written by
"The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story. And this one, is very good." This line, from the short story by Stephen King, and repeated with such muted insanity by Johnny Depp, is Secret Window in a nutshell.
A lot of people didn't enjoy this movie, because the ending is clichéd and predictable, but I loved the rest of it because of it's true subject matter.
The movie is about writing and the insanity of writers. For those of you unfamiliar with the process...imagine spending months or even years of your life working on a painting that you yourself can never see. You become so close to what you create that you have no idea if it's any good, and the growing doubt of your own ability along with the fear of wasting so much time and effort will most definitely have you pulling your hair out.
That's what Secret Window captures so perfectly. It's obvious Stephen King knows exactly what's going on in Mort Rainey's mind, and Koepp, a successful and busy screenwriter, probably connected with the material for the same reason.
Early in the movie, Mort walks around his house on a typical day when he's working on his latest novel. He does nothing. Sleeps. Talks to his dog. Then finally sits down at the typewriter and writes a single paragraph. He then reads it, realizes it's bad writing, and deletes it. But he does it with a SMILE. And he goes back to sleep happy, because he DID something on that day.
That's the world that Mort Rainey, as a serious writer, lives in. Completely obsessed with trying to paint a blind masterpiece, and scared to death of failure. So you can imagine that when Mort finally completes something that he's proud of, it goes down as one of the great days in his otherwise nervous and stressful existence.
And King has magnified the situation, by stripping our writer of everything else that might make him happy. Mort's personal life is a complete mess. His wife has left him for another man (a subplot staged with perfect awkward bitterness), he has no friends and is living alone in a cabin in the woods. So Mort is a writer and nothing else. The only thing he has left is the hope of his latest novel. And that naturally takes all his effort and gives him nothing but stress and doubt in return. So the only thing that can possibly be keeping him going is his previous work. The satisfaction that comes from having climbed the mountain in the past and created something that truly makes him proud.
And THAT is when the horror begins. Our villain appears, and accuses Mort of plagiarizing one of his previous stories. (If you've followed my description to this point, your stomach should turn a cartwheel at this moment.) Shooter threatens Mort's life, and Mort is left trying to find an original copy of the story to prove to his stalker (and perhaps himself) that he does have a shred of value as a human being.
And of course, as the story goes on...we get a full exploration of the affects of immersing yourself in a fictional world. It goes on to show the paranoia and madness that can come from men when they don't have the steady influence of reality to keep them anchored.
The ending of the story is very predictable and cliché, but I can forgive it, because it is a total natural for this material. Secret Window is a perfect examination of the inner madness that exists in people who create subjective art for a living. Depp's performance is pitch perfect, and people who understand the situation will most likely love this.
If you aren't, however, you won't be able to identify.
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