There's a knock on the door of the secluded upstate New York lake house of struggling writer Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp). The person at the door is an oddball, creepy individual named John Shooter (John Turturro). No one would mistake him for a door to door salesman; he gets straight to the point much too quickly for anyone to make that erroneous comparison. "You stole my story". That is his accusation and he wants to be compensated.
When it becomes apparent that the two men did indeed write very similar stories, and not just in general content, but alike in their choice of words as well, Rainey is quick to retort that his was published first. Shooter of course doesn't believe it, and wants proof, which would require Rainey seeking the help and involvement of his now separated unfaithful wife Amy (Maria Bello). This setup should sound familiar to loyal readers of horror maestro Stephen King, having been adapted from his novella 'Secret garden, secret window.' The irony of the setup is that director and writer David Koepp, tweaked with the original ending to King's story to construct his own conclusion for the movie, which although helps fit the pieces of the puzzle together, is much too trite, banal and stale given how many times its been done before.
In terms of production, it is elegant and remarkably well directed. The movie begins with a seemingly endless tracking shot that rises from the lake surface, enters Rainey's house via an open window, pans around the living room, and in a most bizarre manner, enters a mirror, from where the rest of the movie resumes. As a matter of fact, in situations where Rainey is in solitude, the house around him almost seems to come alive, much the way the hotel did in 'The Shinning'. Depp's performance, as expected, is the other commendable trait. Labelling it quirky would sound stereotyped given how often that word has been associated with his method of acting, but there is no other word that could do him justice. Any other actor would have wallowed in self pity over his situation and resorted to histrionics to express himself. Depp on the other hand relies on self deprecating humour peppered with his own brand of idiosyncratic delivery of lines. These two aspects of the film almost make it worth recommending.
As the creepy John Shooter, Turturro convinces for the brisk screen time he is given. He exhibits the traits of a spoilt, pampered hick, hell bent on proving he is right, the way that Kathy Bates did with the Annie Wilkes character from Misery, also based on a King story. Timothy Hutton's presence as Amy's boyfriend is either the result of spirited casting (his role in another King adaptation, 'The Dark Half', is very similar to Depp's character here) or just plain coincidence.
What isn't a coincidence is the faulty conclusion, which has more of a 'been there, done that' feel to it rather than any stroke of originality to help give much needed impetus for the final resolution. Given the situation, Koepp, a fabulous writer himself, could almost be accused of plagiarism. - Faizan Rashid