Best-selling 2006 self-help book The Secret, from author Rhonda Byrne, implores its readers to view the world through a philosophy known as the “Law of Attraction.” The basic idea is that the thoughts of the individual (positive/negative) bring about the experience (positive/negative) they want. If you see yourself drowning in debt, you’re likely to stay that way. But if you see yourself overcoming it, then you will. Whether you see it as hokum or merely cogitative reframing, the fact that the book has sold over 30 million copies in 50 languages does imply there’s a hungry market for it. Where there is money to be made, you can almost count the days until a feature adaptation is made and 2020 marks the release of such a film: The Secret: Dare to Dream from director Andy Tennant (Ever After: A Cinderella Story) and starring Katie Holmes (Batman Begins), Josh Lucas (Ford v. Ferrari), Jerry O’Connell (Satanic Panic), and Celia Watson (K-Pax). Considering the source material, Dare to Dream is less of a strict adaptation and more of an interpretative one, weaving the principles of The Secret within a romantic drama buttress as a means of empowering the audience to look at life a little differently.
It’s been five years since the death of her husband and Miranda Wells (Holmes) spends each day putting one foot in front of the other as she raises their three kids solo with a job running the restaurant owned by her boyfriend Tucker (O’Connell). After a day involving one sick kid staying home, scheduling a root canal for herself without insurance, and two daughters growing increasingly irate at their family’s lack of financial resources, Miranda prepares for more bad news as a hurricane grows ever closer to making landfall in Louisiana. A strange bit of luck seems to come her way when an accidental rear-ending introduces Bray Johnson (Lucas) to her life, starting the beginning of several moments of happenstance. Is the world around Miranda changing or is it just the way she sees it?
Having not read the book, but having relatives who have along with having worked in a book store selling it, I felt fairly prepared for the contents of Dare to Dream. Honestly, without the knowledge, I would’ve been fine, too, as the script from Rick Parks (Ever After: A Cinderella Story) and Tennant coming from an adaptation by Bekah Brunstetter (This Is Us) possesses all the hallmarks of a pick-me-up romantic drama: a struggling widow meets someone whose opposite outlook on life inspires within herself the ability to rise above. It’s a variation audiences have seen play out in a several of ways, it’s just that this time, there’s a bit more focus on how the manifestation of good things comes from how we, as individuals, elect to engage with the world around us. While this part isn’t new, the approach feels fresh thanks to several components. The first being that the performances never feel hollow at all. Holmes has always had, even in her less straight roles (Logan Lucky, Miss Meadows), a good-natured quality that makes her performances accessible. In this case, Holmes offers a version of the widow which isn’t overblown with drama, but feels natural and grounded. As her primary screen partner, Lucas displays a similar affability, conveying charm and ease while remaining the bigger mystery of the film. Wisely, the script teases out who Brayer is very early on, empowering the audience to piece together the puzzle before the characters get there. Ordinarily, this kind of leading would frustrate as we, the audience, would then be watching the characters play catch-up. Instead, it offers the audience a clearer, less emotional perspective of events so that when things do escalate, the audience remain engaged more easily. The second strong component is the script itself which just zips and does so without being reductive in any manner. Impressively, given the 107-minute runtime, you’d expect tightly packed script to feel bloated, but it never does. Rather, things just flow so that neither the audience nor the characters wallow in too much misery or rejoice in too much interpersonal glory. In this way, Dare to Dream is not only a fun watch, but a quick one.
This is entirely a personal preference, but the whole of Dare to Dream is strong without the romantic component and would feel bold had the narrative shunted it completely.
For those who either caught it during its brief theatrical run or are excited to check it out on home video, there is one bit of bad news: sparse bonus features. Dare to Dream includes one brief featurette in which Tennant, Holmes, Lucas, and Byrne discuss the film by way of their connection to The Secret. It’s charming, sure, but feels more like a promotion for the book or the philosophy than an offering of any kind of insights into the production. If you’re already using secret as a verb, then you’ll feel right at home watching this behind the scenes short. If you’re not, then I’m afraid there’s nothing truly new to learn in terms of script design, performance creation, production, or anything else that is fun when the cast and crew are interviewed.
There’s something to be said for a film that delivers exactly what it promises. There aren’t any big surprises in Dare to Dream as the film follows the standard notes of self-discovery and romance of this subgenre. But there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s comforting. In that way, Dare to Dream succeeds in being wholesome, kind, and downright charming, wrapping the audience in that feel-good feeling that seems to be missing from our closed-off world. The fact that it includes delightful performances from an enjoyable cast just makes it all the better. Plus, the notion that our perception of the world creates our reality, well, that’s something this philosophy minor can get behind. If you find yourself in the mood for some good, old-fashioned warm cinema, you can’t go wrong here.
The Secret: Dare To Dream Special Features
- The Secret on set
Available on digital beginning September 15th, 2020.
Available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and VOD September 22nd, 2020.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.