I have to admit that prior to seeing this film, I had never heard of the self-help book series called The Secret, which apparently was born out of a 2006 documentary film about the great mystery of the universe by Rhonda Byrne. The books, also written by Byrne, have become such huge best-sellers, endorsed by Oprah and translated into 50 languages. Evidently I don’t really Oprah, nor do I subscribe to the Law of Attraction way of thinking, which claims that thoughts can change a person’s life directly.
When I saw the trailer, I was more curious than intrigued, but I decided to give it a shot. The movie centers on a down-on-her-luck young-ish widow Miranda Wells (Katie Holmes) with three kids under the age of 16. Though she’s dating her wealthy store-owner boss (Jerry O’Connell, playing an unmemorable stock character), Miranda is broke, so broke that she can’t afford to fix her leaking roof or even pizza for dinner.
As luck would have it, one fateful afternoon she runs into (literally!) a mysterious guy during a fender-bender incident. Instead of being upset, Bray Johnson (Josh Lucas) offers to fix her front bumper AND her roof! Let’s just say his sheer positivity, and his way of dealing with her kids, pretty much charm his way into the Wells’ family. With a title called The Secret, naturally you expect that there’s something that connects Miranda and Bray, and the movie is far from subtle in its eventual revelation.
While watching the movie, I strive to suppress my cynicism and really enjoy the film for what it is. One thing I appreciate from the start is Miranda’s relationship with her three kids–they actually flow quite naturally and doesn’t make me cringe. I often find these kinds of Lifetime or Hallmark-inspired dramas to be chock full of cringe-worthy acting, now it’s not entirely devoid of it, mind you, but the kids are actually rather charming. Sarah Hoffmeister as Missy, Aidan Brennan as Greg, and especially Chloe Lee as Bess the youngest all have some cute moments in the movie. Veteran actress Celia Weston is truly the comic relief here as Miranda’s mother in law.
I haven’t seen Katie Holmes in anything memorable since oh I dunno, Batman Begins? To be fair though, she’s actually pretty decent here and believable as a caring mom who’s trying to make ends meet. It’s Josh Lucas that I have the biggest issue with, in regards to how his character’s written and his smarmy acting. He started off okay and I was even willing to go with his robust positive energy, dimpled smile and aw-shucks grin, but it was like eating candy when you’ve got a horrible cavity (you’ll know why I use this analogy when you’ve seen the movie). He’s like Mr. Perfect and even after a sliver of his past and the big secret was revealed, his character stays pretty much the same from beginning to end. Speaking of the ending, the saccharine sweet level was through the roof!
I think I’d have liked it
a bit a lot more if the movie hadn’t been so predictable. My husband sat down with his laptop for the last half of the movie and he guessed who the character was that showed up towards the end, even though he wasn’t really following it closely. There are certain sincere moments, such as between Bray and Miranda’s son, but those are too few and far between to balance the plot contrivances and cheesy bits. This is far from being Andy Tennant‘s best work. He’s done much more memorable romantic dramas and rom-coms–Ever After, Hitch, even Sweet Home Alabama (which stars a less smarmy Josh Lucas). Ok so this one is slightly more watchable than The Bounty Hunter, but I blame Gerry Butler for that, ha!
I guess if you’re into Nicholas Sparks movies or those Hallmark rom-coms, this might be the movie for you. In the time of uncertainties amidst a pandemic, I welcome a film with a hopeful and uplifting message, sadly this one is pretty much drowned out by its own schmaltz.
Have you seen The Secret: Dare to Dream or read the books? I’d love to hear what you think!