Subtlety is not the distinguishing feature of Secret Games, a piece of elegant trash wrapped in the slick packaging of a neatly filmed triangle tale in which a wife turned high-class whore becomes a kind of Rorschach test for men’s impulse to control.
The husband is played by Billy Drago, whom one sees more commonly in roles of psychopathic villain. Here he is an unwitting, even well-meaning, monster in the way that probably many husbands are: totally immersed in the imagined importance of their own lives, they have ceased paying any meaningful attention to their wives. Mark is an architect, specializing in renovations — an apt metaphor for this would-be Pygmalion who has ideas about molding his once ingenuous wife into his private vision of a dazzling ornament to bedeck his boundless ego. He’s not a bad man, just a real insensitive one.
Julianne has other ideas about how life should be lived, and she sets out on a risky little odyssey, the not unreasonable object of her heroic quest being the perfect orgasm. Her friend, Sandra, has a solution: join Celeste’s band of happy hookers to the rich. What should by all rights have turned into a liberating experience for this inhibited product of a nice Catholic school for girls veers off course into darker terrain. She jumps, in short, out of the conjugal frying pan into the sadistic fire of another Pygmalion — Eric, with his precisely articulated notions of how to carve out a Galatea in his own more ominous image.
Things cascade out of control rather quickly, and a disastrous ending is obviated at the last moment through a joining of forces by husband and wife against the interloper (suitably dressed in black throughout — except when nude, of course). That the not unexciting finale takes place in the deep end of an empty pool perhaps suggests that we should not get in over our heads even if the water isn’t real.
I did like the background for the opening credits. The camera caresses in leisurely fashion Julianne’s body as if to say that her essence is nothing more than the sum of her exquisite nudity, a point the two men in her life probably would not object to. Somebody once said or should have said that no movie, no matter how vapid, is meaningless. I’ll buy that. In Secret Games the ‘meaning’ does seem to be rather Mack-truck obvious, however, and that appears to be that if you’re a bored housewife kept in the lap of luxury you shouldn’t start turning tricks, and if you’re an emotionally unavailable husband you shouldn’t be surprised if your wife starts turning tricks. I’m not sure such an admittedly edifying moral needs a film like this in order to gain a sympathetic hearing, but it does offer becoming cover for the displaying of aroused female breasts, lesbian engagements, and, in general, the parade of ecdysiast beauties who lounge and loiter lushly through this film.
It all has redeeming artistic merit, you see, and marriage, of course, triumphs in the end. Kind of family values in drag.