Dark Places is based on the 2009 book by Gillian Flynn. She is the same author who wrote Gone Girl, which was also adapted for screen and won a few awards. Unfortunately, Dark Places will not.
When you see the trailer for Dark Places and notice that it stars the wonderfully talented Charlize Theron, you’ll instantly think that it can’t be too bad. It’s far from good and that’s a damn shame. Besides Theron, the film also includes Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Corey Stoll, Christina Hendricks, and Chloe Grace Moretz. If you remember, Hoult and Theron were both in Mad Max: Fury Road.
From what I gather from people who have read the book, it’s a very dark mystery that is a real page turner. The story actually steals from the murder case of the West Memphis Three. I highly recommend finding the HBO Paradise Lost series and checking out West of Memphis film on Netflix, as the real story is probably far more interesting than the one Flynn wrote.
The story takes place in Kansas City, where Libby Day (Charlize Theron) is haunted by the slayings of her mother and two sisters that took place when she was just a little girl. Libby was able to escape and provided testimony that convicted her Satan-worshiping brother Ben. However, 25 years later, Libby starts to have doubts about whether her memories of that night were actually true and if maybe her brother wasn’t actually guilty.
I like Charlize Theron, and she was one of the reasons I had high hopes for this film. The problem is that she looks too much like Charlize Theron. In the book, Libby is supposed to look down on her luck and broken, but in the film Libby has perfect hair, teeth and nails. She looked too much like a movie star and not gritty enough.
Libby meets up with Lyle (Nicholas Hoult), who is the leader of the “Kill Club”, who are a group of strange people that get together and try and solve unsolved murders. The Kill Club has been interested in Libby’s case for a while, and they believe her brother was wrongfully convicted. Lyle offers Libby money and convinces her to help them put the pieces together on what happened that night.
At this point of the movie you’re intrigued by the story because the setup is very strong, but unfortunately the film never really gets going. The narrative is split in two. One where we follow present-day Libby as she investigates clues and leads, and the other being flashbacks that depict the events from Libby’s childhood, building up to the night her mom and sisters are murdered in their farm house.
Because it’s a mystery, I won’t go over too many more of the plot points, but the film jumps all over the place and goes through the motions. Don’t worry, if you pay attention you’ll solve the case within the first 30 minutes of the film.
The characters are complete cardboard cutouts, which speaks more to the writing than the acting. Here you have all these actors, but they are never able to spread their wings and actually act. You don’t really care about any of the characters.
As for the narrative, there is too much going on, and just when you think you have things figured out, the director adds many implausible twists that make no sense. Most of the film, especially the last half, feels very forced.
I like a good dark mystery thriller, but the characters were too static for me and lacked motivation. The overall story is fine, but I think it comes down to lack of execution. There wasn’t enough visual flair as everything seemed dark and flat. To be honest, the entire film felt like an episode of a top television drama, not a dark big screen thriller.
If you want Gone Girl quality, it’s just not there. Is this an awful movie? No. But is it worth 10 dollars or more at the theatre? Absolutely not. Maybe I went in with too high of expectations, but wait for this one as a cheap rental when it’s available on video on demand.
The story fell flat and the acting was mediocre. The best way to sum it all up: it’s an average 2.5 raindrops out of 5.