Think of "Therese Raquin," the Emile Zola novel that is the inspiration for "In Secret," as the original film noir. It has an illicit love affair, a murder and the guilt and fear of discovery that come with it.
Filmmaker Charlie Stratton, working from Neal Bell's stage adaptation of the book, delivers a melodramatic and overwrought version of the tale. It benefits from brooding performances by the leads and another fierce turn by Jessica Lange in an unpleasant supporting role.
Elizabeth Olsen is Therese Raquin, an illegitimate child whose father leaves her with distant relatives after her mother dies.
"Illegitimates have been dealt an unlucky hand," Madame Raquin (Lange) purrs. She then sets out to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Therese is forlorn and unloved, and Madame has her future planned in ways that won't change that. She will marry Madame's pampered son Camille (Tom Felton), a sickly lad who has grown up with Therese, more of a brother than a lover.
They move from the country to Paris, Camille reconnects with childhood pal Laurent (Oscar Isaac of "Inside Llewyn Davis"), an artist who awakens the woman in Therese.
As the clueless Camille frets that "I don't know how to make Therese happy" to his "friend," Laurent is making her happy every day over lunch.
And as the lovers get comfortable keeping their secret, the idea comes to them that they should kill Camille. Perhaps they get the idea from the police inspector (the amusing Matt Lucas of TV's "Little Britain").
"There is nothing but murder and lust," Inspector Olivier says after relating the details of yet another grisly murder investigation in 1860s City of Light.
"People have accidents every day," the lovers realize.
"In Secret" is a genuine "bodice ripper" of a thriller, with the requisite heavy breathing that comes after said bodice is ripped. The sex isn't explicit, but Olsen and Isaac suggest the heat that gives this doomed affair its momentum. Olsen's version of Therese is a lovelorn Madame Bovary who decides to take things further than Flaubert's Emma Bovary ever would.
Lange makes a delicious, fearsome hysteric, and former "Harry Potter" foil Felton is properly foppish and tubercular as Camille. And Stratton, who directed a stage production of this earlier, does well with shifting our sympathies from Therese to Camille to Madame Raquin over the course of the tale.
Unfortunately, there's no way to backdate this original noir to keep us from seeing where it's going long before it gets there. The overwrought 19th-century melodramatic conventions of the plot creak like the springs and joints of a worn-out stagecoach.
And as what happened "In Secret" unravels in the harsh light of day, some of what we're supposed to feel when the curtain falls is missing because we saw it coming long before it got there.
Rating: R (for sexual content and brief violent images)
Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Jessica Lange, Oscar Isaac, Tom Felton
Director: Charlie Stratton
Running time: 1 hour,