Director: Elise Duran
Cast: Alexandra Daddario, Tyler Hoechlin, Laverne Cox, Kimiko Glenn
Runtime: 1 hr 35 mins
Rating: M18 (Sexual References and Scenes)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 19 September 2019
Synopsis: Based on the New York Times Bestseller by Sophie Kinsella (Confessions of a Shopaholic) comes the new film CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET. Thinking they're about to crash, Emma (Alexandra Daddario) spills her secrets to a stranger on a plane. At least, she thought he was a stranger...Until she later meets Jack (Tyler Hoechlin), her company's young CEO, who now knows every humiliating detail about her…
“Every single one of us has a secret in the world that we don’t want anyone else to see,” so goes the opening narration, “And we think that if people find out who we really are, they won’t stick around, till we make our way through lives hiding our vulnerabilities.” Unfortunately for young marketing assistant Emma Corrigan (Alexandra Daddario), she has bared her innermost secrets to the stranger (Tyler Hoechlin) sitting beside her on a turbulent flight from Florida to New York, after coming off a disastrous corporate meeting and fearing a crash is imminent.
As rom-com formula would have it, that stranger happens to be the CEO of Emma’s company, who has re-emerged from a self-imposed hiatus following the death of his co-founder and close friend six months ago to try to reinvigorate the business. Jack’s appearance becomes a trigger for her to re-examine the areas in her life that she is frustrated with, including a boyfriend whose intense love for jazz and other life habits she has been accommodating, and a pretentious co-worker whose spider plant she regularly ‘poisons’ with orange juice; it is also opportunity for her to kindle a new spark to her love life with Jack, especially given how he is single and very much eligible.
Whereas her episodes with soon-to-be ex-boyfriend Connor (David Ebert) and annoying co-worker Artemis (Kate Easton) are played largely for laughs, her relationship with Jack is intended to be both romantic and thoughtful at the same time. What would a romance be like with someone who already knows your deepest secrets? Would that someone know better than to reveal these secrets to others? Would that someone be inclined to share as much about his (or her) own life? It isn’t surprising that it will take a reckoning for Jack to realise that he should be more careful with Emma’s secrets, or for that matter, that he needs to be more open with his own in order for their relationship to be on a more equitable footing.
Thanks to their easygoing charm, the romance between Daddario and Hoechlin’s characters is effortlessly winning. Oh yes, as clearly intended as it may be, you’ll find yourself rooting for Emma and Jack. Between them, it is Emma who proves to be the more interesting one (notwithstanding the fact that you’ll already know all there is to know about her right from the start), simply because Daddario is the more lively performer; compared to Daddario, Hoechlin is a little too cautiously reserved for his own good, and could very well loosen up more to let us warm up more to his character. That is also since their relationship is really pretty straightforward, with much resting on their charisma to give it vim and verve.
Not having read the Sophie Kinsella novel on which the movie is based, we cannot be sure just how faithful screenwriter Peter Hutchings has been to the source material; that said, we wish both him and first-time director Elise Duran had given more plot to the central relationship between Emma and Jack, which unfolds a little too uneventfully. It is telling when Emma’s friendship with her colleague cum coffee buddy Casey (Robert King), or that of her interactions with roommates Lissy (Sunita Mani) and Gemma (Kimiko Glenn), threaten to steal the scene from time to time that there needs to be more happening between our lead couple.
As far as rom-coms go, ‘Can You Keep A Secret’ is therefore at best a pleasing diversion, carried less on the strength of its filmmaking than on the shoulders of its performers. That this is adapted from a chick-lit novel 15 years ago is somewhat telling, given how many individuals bare much more damning stuff on social media than what Emma confesses to Jack on the plane, and how that is barely acknowledged in the movie itself. If anything, you’ll likely take notice of both Daddario and Hoechling, both of whom demonstrate that they are better than their material. Fans of the book may inevitably be curious about how it has crossed from page to screen, but the question for everyone else is: “can you keep your expectations in check?”
(As lightweight as chick-lit goes, this adaptation of the Sophie Kinsella bestseller coasts amiably on the charm of its stars, but is otherwise let down by the weakness of its filmmaking)
Review by Gabriel Chong