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'Little Secrets'

Nice drama is a break from the sensational teen fare

Friday, September 13, 2002

By Scott Mervis, Post-Gazette Weekend Editor

Remember "Secrets & Lies," the 1996 Oscar-nominated film about a family bursting with all the information it was suppressing?


RATING: PG for thematic elements.

STARRING: Evan Rachel Wood, Michael Angarano

DIRECTOR: Blair Treu



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"Little Secrets" is the kid version.

In the early going, we see how fun secrets can be. Evan Rachel Wood plays Emily, a 14-year-old violin prodigy who runs a "Secrets Kept" booth, not unlike Lucy's in "Peanuts," for the kids in her cushy suburban neighborhood.

For 50 cents you can unload your secret and/or store pieces of your parents' china, chess set or whatever else you've broken. One little boy is a budding kleptomaniac; one kid is digging to China in his back yard; another is trying to be too grown-up for her own good. Emily can keep a secret because, we're told, she has one of her own she's hung onto since childhood.

With her friends at summer camp and Emily homebound to rehearse for her audition with the youth symphony, she strikes up a friendship with the new boys on the block (Michael Angarano and David Gallagher) and various crushes ensue.

Eventually, the secrets begin to pile up to the point where Emily can't stand the weight of them anymore.

Far from the happy meal kid fare that's served up over the summer or the Freddie Prinze Jr. teen series, "Little Secrets" is a wholesome, thoughtful character drama that plays out like a really good "Afterschool Special." You even get Mendelssohn instead of Smash Mouth.

Wood, from "Once and Again," and Angarano, from "Will & Grace," are appealing young stars who work up a good chemistry. It leaves you wondering what she sees in Gallagher, the orange-haired heartthrob from "7th Heaven." Vivica A. Fox also elevates the material as the violin teacher with a secret of her own.

"Little Secrets," which does come on a bit strong with its message of honesty and openness, is devoid of the bells, whistles and bathroom humor of the "event" movies. And therein lies its charm.

Scott Mervis can be reached at smervis@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2576.

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