Hidden Secrets (2006)
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It's real life movie making. Outstanding. I hope I see many more like it.
In hindsight, the structure of the "working out" of the issues weren't as fluid or as realistic as one would hope to see, but there's only so much time in a movie and they did what could with what they had.
I heartily recommend it to anyone who wants to see "reality" in Christian film-making yet without the unnecessary garbage of inappropriateness. I have added it to my collection.
I've seen the movie a couple more times and its weaknesses are a bit more evident, but nevertheless, the acting overall was quite good and the messages in the movie are so practical and just as importantly, it doesn't have that "lame Christian movie" look and feel that so many have.
If you relate to that moniker, and would like to watch Christian movies that are a clear step above, then I think this will not disappoint.
There was low attendance at the preview. I blame that on lack of any publicity. I only learned of it while booking online tickets for the opening of Amazing Grace. After attending the movie, no one I talked to had heard of it at all. My understanding is that the Wednesday night showing was also very low, but that doesn't surprise me as many of the people who might have attended this movie were probably at church on a Wednesday night. They need to do better advertising for opening - and remember the scheduled of those most likely to attend.
I LOVED the character Rhonda and how the others related to her. Rhonda seemed to be working to remember her lines, but there is a scene where she really was trying to go by a script she showed to Sherry (it didn't work) and so maybe a lot of the rest of the time this character would script out in her mind what she wanted to say and then deliver those lines rather than being herself. Her final lines did appear to be from the heart.
The character of Gary was the best portrayed. He seemed the most natural in acting. I would love to know his background - how was he able to answer Rhonda the way he did with the verses from Isaiah? What in his past made him know that?
In spite of Rachel's sneaky manners, one couldn't help but feel a little sorry for her.
Award for best facial expression goes to: Pastor Wexler after all the prayers and sharing.
At the preview we saw a deleted scene with Gary and Jeremy. Although I think it needs a little tweaking (seemed a bit rough, not the normal easy flow of a casual conversation), I really wish they'd put it in! The movie is only about 90 minutes long and can easily absorb this scene which I think addresses a valid question from many people.
I wish I could see this again right now! I'd love to have the chance to see the humorous parts, think more on some of the more poignant lines delivered, just enjoy the characters and their interaction again.
I will probably try to take family/friends to see this when it is released (although I really DO hate to pay the high ticket prices! That's why I stay away from theaters!) but will definitely buy this when it is released on DVD and show that to friends and family.
I only went to the preview because I am hoping that by voting with my feet, more movies like this will be made.
The story sees members of a high school band and a couple of other friends returning to their home town to bury a central figure in their group. Chris, the recently departed friend, was apparently the glue that held the friends together and had helped most of the others through personal struggles. Now his death helps them all come together and deal with some important issues once again.
The group stays with Sherry, Chris' sister, who is getting ready to open a bed-and-breakfast. She had also been virtually engaged to Jeremy (White) until a dark secret caused her to break it off 10 years before. Many of them have been drifting for years: Jeremy and Sherry since the breakup, Anthony since a knee injury ended his football dreams and Herald, whose success as a Christian author has been severely tempered by his marriage to obnoxious Rhonda. Autumn Paul as Rhonda adds much spice to the film, although I think she is a bit of a cardboard villain. Many of her sanctimonious actions I have witnessed first-hand (usually from new believers). She goes so far as to make her actions questionable, however. I can believe her saying "I wonder how many of these people would go to Hell if they died today" with a relish that makes it obvious she enjoys the thought of them getting their just deserts. We even find ourselves on Gary's side when he refutes her heavy-handed attempt to witness to him through an Internet script. Sadly, most of us have known non-believers whose company we vastly preferred to the brother or sister who tried to witness to them. What I cannot believe is any Christian, no matter how pompous, NOT wanting sinners to come to their church. I think any Christian I've ever known would be thrilled to have Asama bin Laden (after going through a medal detector, perhaps) in a pew, hearing one's pastor preach the Word, just on the CHANCE the Lord might snag him. To me, Rhonda's character veered off into cardboard J.R. Ewing/Snidely Whiplash villainy at this point.
This seems to be the main message: A bitter, judgmental Christian is going to drive more away from Christ than he/she will ever lead to Him. The other message is that Christ's blood is sufficient to cover all sins and that it is not too late to follow His will. Both points are well presented within a framework that is an enjoyable, engrossing movie that does indeed capture much of the warmth and charm of The Big Chill.
About every cliché Christian situation is going on here. The acting is HORRIBLE. Schneider is really good - the rest of them just climbed out of the choir loft to help out.
Some questions: Who roofs a house in their nice slacks and dress shoes? What church in America features that many different races? What church member in America is so vocally obnoxious during a worship service? Why is Building 429 playing at a secular bar? Why is "the big chill" band reunion just an overdub of Building 429? The same band that just finished singing? I could go on.
I went to the test screening - was audibly laughing out loud at the sorry quality of the film. Fortunately there was only 3 other people there.
Come on Christians - you don't have to sacrifice proper evaluation just because the movie is on our side. Be real - this one was an embarrassment.
PS: I know my comment is voted the least useful but check out the rating of the movie. That will tell you that my comment is not useless but other people did not bother to write comments.
That being said, let's look at Hidden Secrets.
In this film-
Wait, "Hidden Secrets"? If something is a secret, then it's meant to stay hidden and if something is hidden then by its very status is is something hidden!
When the title of your film creates a potential feedback loop, you're in trouble.
A man named David has just died.
How did he die? Well, he died because Plot is a cruel cinematic goddess who demands fictional blood be spilled in her unholy name.
David's sister Sherry has to make arrangements for his burial and that includes calling his friends to gather for the event.
While the opening credits roll, we see various characters preparing for a funeral
Yes, this is a character-driven Christian movie. Consider yourself warned.
To be fair, whenever the characters have a philosophical or theological discussion, the film borders on watchable. But just when you find yourself ready to describe a scene as 'tolerable' the script will crack the whip and force the actors to do something comedic. And the results vary from 'terrible' to 'soul-crushing.'
And most of the soul-crushing comes from Rhonda.
Oh, I cannot do this review without discussing a witch called Rhonda. She's meant to represent the judgmental, prideful, super Christian who drives people into Satan worship. Sometimes she's gently abrasive ( like a sandpaper swipe against a naked eyeball) and other times she is so hyper-zealous that she leaps beyond Rude and blossoms into Abusive.
Rhonda and Gary (John Scheider) have a little verbal collision when she learns that he works in stem cell research. I don't get enough manufactured drama reading X-Men comics, so moments like these warm my heart, just like spicy food.
Shocked, Rhonda runs back into the house and tells Sherry that Gary is no better than a murdering abortionist (and depending on whom you ask, that phrase sounds redundant). Going into Godly Overdrive, Rhonda almost shrieks that God's judgment will fall on the place because of him and I can only imagine that her unborn child is trying to squeak out, "Lady, this woman does not speak for me, I'm only along for the ride and the free food."
Exasperated, Sherry forcefully reminds Rhonda that she just put her own brother in the ground so maybe they should talk about this later.
We have our First Moment Of True Entertainment in this movie!
Rhonda storms off, because compassion is something that happens to other Christians.
That entire sequence is just one (ONE!) example of what we get from Rhonda. Every time she opens her mouth, a part of you will shrivel in fear because By The Audience This Movie Dumbs, Something Annoying This Way Comes.
Have no fear though, since the other characters are less hate-inducing but that doesn't help.
Jeremy (who used to love Shelley) and Rachel are having relationship woes and the fact that Jeremy is forced to interact with Shelley isn't helping.
During a painfully long and uninteresting roofing montage, the guys start discussing why Jeremy and Sherry broke up. This is a good question: why can't two blandly blonde people get along? Jeremy doesn't know why she dumped him and the breakup did affect his faith. He admits to doing a few things he wasn't proud of.
It's okay, we don't blame you for Second Glance.*
There are so many horrible non-moments that I can't possibly recount them all here.
The actors all look embarrassed when they try to sound funny and bored otherwise. The only ones really trying are John Schneider as Gary the atheist and David A. R. White as Jeremy the ..guy.