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Dark Places – Review


Release Date: 18 June 2015 [USA]
Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Writer: Gillian Flynn [Novel] - Gilles Paquet-Brenner [Screenplay]
Cast: Charlize Theron - Nicholas Hoult - Christina Hendricks



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Posted September 7, 2015 by

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Dark Places Review:

A distraught young girl dressed in a hospital gown is questioned by an unseen person. ‘Did Ben kill your mom and your sisters?’ he asks. My immediate thought when watching this scene, this one’s going to be a tough watch. Of course, that didn’t pan out. I’ve seen ‘Criminal Minds’ episodes more distressing than this film.

Despite its terrifying name, ‘Dark Places’ doesn’t get too dark. One of the most fascinating aspects of the film, showcased briefly in the beginning, is discarded for a hum-drum investigatory storyline.

Our protagonist, Libby Day (Theron), has now spent 28 years in the shadow of the massacre that killed her entire family, and sent her brother to jail. She’s lived off the goodwill of the people, but goodwill has a short memory, and the gifts and money have dried up.

In a last ditch effort to make a quick buck she agrees to help out entrepreneur Lyle Wirth, member of the innovatively named The Kill Club. This macabre society digs deep into unsolved murder cases with occasional visits from experts and ex-cops. Lyle is chuffed to have the star of the Kansas prairie massacre attend a session, but things go sideways when members of said club decide to attack Libby’s integrity and guilt her into accepting her brother’s innocence. Yes, very natural behaviour that, belittle and scream at someone who’s lived through such trauma and has only her blood relative to blame for it.

We skip between the present and flashbacks to Libby’s childhood, where her mum scrapes by on her own, and her brother, Ben, is a distant teenager. Libby’s older sister Michele is a tattler, and the younger one is just there to make up the numbers.

It may come as a surprise to some that the film is adapted from the book by Gillian Flynn, writer of the runaway success ‘Gone Girl’. This story, however, has none of that feel, suspense, wit or commentary. I haven’t read the book, but it received quite a reception. The same cannot be said about the film.

What could have been a deep look into our celebrity culture and Libby’s attempts at capitalising on her tragedy turns into a film with a meandering plot and uninteresting characters. It feels like an attempt to exploit the success of Flynn’s more famous work, but fails at every point.

What lets this film down is its inability to make a concise story out of the book. It is hampered by atrocious editing that takes you out of the film. Topping that is some of the worst performances I’ve seen by genuine talents. When even Oscar-winner Charlize Theron is pathetic, you know you’ve got a stinker on your hands. And she’s the best of the lot. Usually reliable Chloe Grace-Moretz is terrible and looks uncomfortable in the scenes she’s given. Nicholas Hoult is, as always, trapped by his affectations. The supporting cast are no better. Christina Hendricks is criminally underused, and I’m saying that as someone who’s not even a fan of hers.

While there was one moment of genuine surprise, not enough actions had clear-cut, or interesting motivations to make you care. In the end, what should have been an emotional monologue comes across as flat and perfunctory. It is no surprise that this film released with virtually no fanfare. It’s not good or memorable. Nor does is it have any observations on our state of being. Somehow, this film just made the entire story… not matter.


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Lestat de Lioncourt
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