Based on a Sophie Kinsella novel, Can You Keep A Secret? is a romantic comedy that should appeal to enthusiasts of the genre. There’s more layers behind that romcom sheen, and if you dig a bit of improvisation in your cinematic cocktail, Can You Keep A Secret? may also be up your alley.
Emma (Alexandra Daddario), a frustrated employee for an organic food company named Panda, has struck out on a bigtime client in Chicago, and all she wants to do is get soused on her way back to New York. When the plane experiences a healthy dose of turbulence, she spills the beans about every details of her life to a good looking and attentive seat mate named Jack (Tyler Hoechlin).
Everyone survives the plane incident, and Emma is back in the arms of her jazz loving, idiosyncratic boyfriend Connor (David Ebert). Connor loves parading in his apartment sans pants, and it’s a tragic sight for folks who simply don’t appreciate hairy posteriors. Emma may have been okay with Connor’s jazz fixations and lack of clothing, but he’s also a co-worker, and cabin fever may be getting to her.
During her neurotic plane ride confessions to Jack, Emma confessed that she had never been in love and also complains about her work environment. These are details that, to Emma’s defense, would be great amidst the intimacy of strangers. But Jack isn’t a stranger anymore, as he pops up in Emma’s workplace, in synchronistic fashion, as the co-owner of Panda. This dynamic obviously throws a wrench into Emma’s life and career, but wrenches do serve a valuable purpose!
So the glaring question is how did Emma not know Jack was her boss during that fateful conversation? It’s inferred that Jack’s fellow partner was probably the face of the organization, and now that he’s passed, Jack is taking over and making sure the ship is running smoothly. Or maybe it was an oversight from Emma? But in the scheme of things, especially amidst this movie’s freewheeling aesthetic, that is neither here nor there.
Director Elise Durán, making her feature filmmaking debut, injects a healthy share of improv into the narrative (Then Came You director Peter Hutchings penned the script). One can either sink or swim in improv, and thankfully Can You Keep A Secret? did a solid job at making me laugh (actually, I don’t chuckle – I just nod my head in an approving manner). There are enough romantic comedy tropes that Can You Keep A Secret? follows, but the improv stylings bring an extra dimension to the proceedings.
The ensemble is also strong (Sunita Mani, as Emma’s BFF who holds a secret passion, and Kimiko Glenn as their fashion forward roommate, are terrific), but the heart of Can You Keep A Secret? is the chemistry and open vulnerability between Daddario and Hoechlin. Their budding romance is fun to watch, and Daddario proves that she definitely has romantic leading lady chops. Though a touch secretive, Jack is also a sensitive and patient soul, and it’s refreshing to see a romantic comedy wherein the male lead isn’t some testosterone driven animal who needs a bit of taming. Emma may be filled with the trademark neuroses that comes with the genre, but Durán thankfully doesn’t overplay that hand.
Alexandra Daddario (True Detective, San Andreas) and Tyler Hoechlin (Teen Wolf, Everbody Wants Some) have been skilled at tackling various genres in their career, but their open hearted approach to the material gives the film a grounded and resonant level of emotion. Durán also provides a deft hand at balancing the laughter and the inevitable heartaches, and she provides a surprising amount of depth in what could have been a just a lightweight confection.
Towards a pivotal moment of the feature the track Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s “Color of Anyhow” plays, and it’s a wonder why this gem isn’t known too many. Brimming with a healthy share of jokes and a welcome touch of humanity, “Can You Keep A Secret” approaches a seemingly familiar tune and, for stretches, isn’t afraid to go its own way.
Rating: 4 out of 5
To check out the latest episode of CinemAddicts, an episode I co-host with Groupers filmmaker Anderson Cowan, take a listen below. My interview with Elise Durán is available in audio form for our Patreon subscribers.