Dark Places Review
NO SHINING LIGHT FOR DARK PLACES
Last year, director David Fincher released the movie Gone Girl, a book to screen adapation from author Gillian Flynn. Moviegoers everywhere followed the story Nick Dunne as he pieced together the disappearance of his wife Amy, while also trying to clear his name of being the prime suspect in his missing wife’s case. With a budget of only $61 million, Gone Girl claimed over $360 million at the box office (a pretty impressive number), received praise from critics and fans alike, and went on to receive several nominations this past award season, including best actress for Rosamund Pike. Now, a year later, A24 studios, the film company behind While We’re Young and Ex Machina, presents the next adapation of a Gillian Flynn’s novel with the film Dark Places. Can this movie measure up to the praise of last year’s Gone Girl or is it a movie that fails to impress?
In the 1985, Libby Day (Sterling Jerins) was the only survivor of brutal murder at her house, taking the lives of her two younger sisters and her mother, Patty (Christina Hendricks), with her older brother, Ben (Tye Sheridan as teenager Ben), who is blamed to be their killer. Years later, an older and bitter Libby (Charlize Theron) lives a struggling life with all her sympathizers (those who gave her charity money for surviving her horrific childhood event) have left her, leaving her saving accounts depleted. Apporached by Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult), a member of the murder fanclub called “The Kill Club”, Libby is asked to visit this secretive club of amateur detective enthusiasts, who live to solve unresolved crimes. Striking up deal with Lyle and the club for money, Libby is forced to confront the death of her family once again and possibility of Ben’s (Corey Stoll as adult Ben) unjustly incarceration. However, the more she explores, the deeper truth comes to light, opening Libby’s eyes in unthinkable of what happened that fateful night years ago.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I have to say that I loved David Fincher’s Gone Girl , but I didn’t read the book and so I really can’t see the difference between the two. Regardless, I loved the movie. When I first saw the trailer for Dark Places, I decided to buy and read the book before viewing the movie.
Dark Places is both directed and written by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, the director behind Sarah’s Key. Living to its material’s namesake, Paquet-Brenner creates a feature film world of gloom and despair, submissively taking viewers into Libby’s life of haunted memories and present day troubles. Also, to his credit, Paquet-Brenner hits all the key sequences from the book in the movie. Like the book, the movie spilts its time up, switching between the present and the past (1985) as its narrative unfolds with viewer’s getting into the mindframe of Libby, Ben, and Patty Day. Additionally, Dark Places gets the tone of the book accurate, delving in a morbid sense of dealing with people as well as discussing topics of child molestation and even Satanism, which the movie smartly ultizes the whole “demonic / satan worship” craze in the 80s to discredit Ben’s teenager reputation. All of this works for Paquet-Brenner’s Dark Places and yet the movie can’t rise from being mediocre.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle (or problem) that Dark Places faces is its comparison to last year’s Gone Girl. While Gone Girl has gain praise from many, spinning its tale through a camera lens and filmmaking nuances, Dark Places seems on a smaller scale and losses its overall allure. Sure, the intriguing premise is still there as viewers still follow Libby as she uncovers the truth of what happened that night in 1985, but the surprise twists and turns from the book were lost in the transition from page to screen. Suspense kind of does take a back seat with this film as viewers are guided along with mediocre attempts to ignite excitement. Even when the movie draws to its climax scene (revealing the truth of what actually happened) is more “meh” rather than “OMG!” Thus, its source material (no matter how captivating it is) fails to spark Dark Places to its full extent.
In terms of acting, Dark Places enlists variety of known actors and actresses to perform Flynn’s characters in this cinematic presentation. Perhaps the best casting decision comes from actress Charlize Theron who plays the adult version of Libby. Theron, who recently played the character of Furiosa in the summer blockbuster Mad Max: Fury Road, handles playing Libby really well, showcasing a tough exterior of hardened woman, who slowly becomes vulnerable as old wounds and new revelations come to light. In my opinion, Theron is Libby Day. No question about it.
Theron’s Fury Road co-star Nicholas Hoult turns a good job as Lyle Wirth. The character of Lyle is more in the background of the story, which the character is in the book, so fans of Hoult will be a little disappointed that he’s not in the movie as much, but he gets his on-screen moments to shine here and there in the movie. Tye Sheridan proves to be good as teenager Ben, acting as main star via the 1985 flashbacks as he struggles with his personal identity and those around him. Also sharing the 1985 scenes with Sheridan is actress Chloe Grace Moretz, who plays Ben’s feisty girlfriend Diondra. The only person who doesn’t do quite as well in the Dark Places is Christina Hendricks, who plays Libby’s mother (Patty Day) in the flashback scenes of 1985. Hendricks, famous for her role as Joan Harris on the television show Mad Men, lacks emotional depth to her persona of Patty, a character who is mentally broken and physically exhausted. Personally, Hendricks just doesn’t bring that her quality to the character. In more supporting roles, Ant-Man’s antagonist, Corey Stoll, plays the adult Ben and, while he doesn’t have a whole lot of screen time in Dark Places, he does a pretty good job in his performance. The same goes with actress Drea de Matteo, who plays the older version of the Krissi Cates, and Sean Bridgers, who plays Libby’s bum father Runner Day.
Dark Places is a movie that tries to emulate Flynn’s written work, but can’t execute it to exalted moviemaking satisfaction. While Paquet-Brenner’s film hits all the familiar points from the book, keeps up the overall tone, and cast some talented individuals, the movie losses its thrills and lacks its sense of urgency; proven to fail in the jump from page to screen and just doesn’t resonate as well as Gone Girl did last year. If you’re a fan of the book, you might be disappointed with the movie (I was a little bit), but, for everyone else, Dark Places is an okay choice to watch as a rental.