Dark Places (2015)

Writer & Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christina Hendricks, Drea de Matteo, Corey Stoll.

It doesn’t matter whether you liked it or not, at least not really, but what cannot be said about last year’s Gone Girl is that it was just another cookie-cutter movie that left no impression. If you saw the movie, I sincerely doubt that when the movie ended it did not linger with you and affect you, possibly very deeply. I went to see it at the cinema with a group of friends and when we walked out of the movie we changed our plans to each go to our respective homes, and decided to stay together in order to discuss, dissect, and understand the experience we had just had. The movie was many things, but boring is not one of them. David Fincher gets a lot of credit for the look and feel of the movie, but the source material was a major part of the discourse concerning the effectiveness and content of the film. Gillian Flynn had written the novel the movie was based on, and had also adapted it herself into the screenplay for the film. It was only a matter of time before one of her other two novels would be adapted as well.

Dark Places is inspired by Flynn’s novel of the same name and it also serves as French director Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s first English language move. The story centers around Libby Day, a woman who has lived her whole life off the kindness of well-wishers after a childhood tragedy that saw her mother and sisters brutally murdered and her brother’s conviction for the gruesome crime. In her thirties and suddenly strapped for cash with no skills to fall back on, Libby takes the offer of a strange group of wannabe investigators who want to look into the crime, as they believe Libby’s brother Ben is innocent. The movie shifts back and forth in time between the events that led up to the crime and the investigation that takes Libby through a journey into a past she would rather not revisit.

Adult Libby is played with sardonic nonchalance by Charlize Theron. Rounding out the cast are Corey Stoll as the adult Ben, Christina Hendricks in flashbacks as the siblings’ mother, Nicholas Hoult as Libby’s investigating partner, and Chloë Grace Moretz as young Ben’s loose-cannon love interest. Drea de Matteo also shows up, but her role is that of a thankless stripper with not much to contribute to the overall movie’s narrative and feels more like an opportunity to have simply one more famous face in the cast. This is the second movie this summer to feature Theron and Hoult on screen together (the other being Mad Max: Fury Road), but unfortunately it’s not as successful or compelling as their last team-up. Aside from having a gritty and dark tint throughout, there really isn’t much to say about the bleak Kansas setting, the too many interior shots with poor lighting, or the awkward pacing and editing. The acting is great, but we should expect that from the great actors that were compiled to star in what could have been condensed into an episode of Criminal Minds or The Killing. No spoilers over the ending, but it does come out of left field and leaves the viewer confused about how all the puzzle pieces fit together. I am left to wonder whether Flynn is the book world’s equivalent of M. Night Shyamalan and is only capable of telling a story that takes a dramatic turn in the last act – the first time mesmerizing audiences, and every time thereafter frustrating and perplexing them. Either way, this movie is forgettable. Skip it and watch Gone Girl again.

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