Dark Places Movie Review
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Author Gillian Flynn now has a second novel turned into a feature film. Her first was Gone Girl which took both the literary community as well as the movie community by storm upon its release in 2014. The film starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike was very well received thus leading the door wide open for Flynn to strike gold twice. This time around it’s the film adaptation of Dark Places that has A24, the distributor, hoping that the golden touch of her pen can spawn yet another solid hit. With the first coming just a year ago and the buzz finally subsiding a bit, this is the perfect time to jump on those coattails and take the box office by storm. The plan is solid but is the product worthy of similar accolades?
Libby Day (Charlize Theron) lives her life with more weight on her shoulders than most. At the young age of 7 Libby’s mother and two sisters were murdered in their home on one fateful night. The only other survivor was her older brother, Ben. At least they have each other, right? Wrong. Libby testified that Ben, only 14 years old at the time, was the person who brutally slain the family members. He was put behind bars for life while Libby was left to deal with the burden on her own. Over the next twenty-five years Libby found that she could profit from the unfortunate tragedy off of the kindness and pity others had for this young, vulnerable girl. She even wrote a book about it. Now, however, the money that she was gifted over the years has dried up and Libby is without an income. It is then that a new opportunity presents itself which, even without her knowing it at the time, would change everything Libby thought she knew about that night.
Dark Places jumps back and forth running dual plot lines from 1985 as well as present day. The story is told from different perspectives leaving an air of mystery and uncertainty until the very end as it all comes together. When Libby runs out of money she’s lead to a man by the name of Lyle (Nicholas Hoult) who is part of community/group known as The Kill Club. These individuals are obsessed with true crime and often look for clues to help solve cases which have been left on the back burner. Libby is offered money to recount the tragic events in the hopes of shedding new light on the crime. The reason is because there are those in The Kill Club who believe that Ben did not, in fact, commit those murders. Libby’s skepticalness is overshadowed by her “need” for money so she agrees to go on this fool’s errand. The funny thing about that is as she begins to dig into her past there are things that just don’t add up.
Adapting this particular mystery novel into a movie had to be a huge challenge due to the jumping back and forth with time lines. There is a lot of detail that would need to be covered but that also creates confusion when squeezing it all down into a two hour movie (113 minutes to be exact). This was Dark Places’ biggest challenge in my eyes and ultimately is what makes it not as enjoyable as it could be. It was impossible to give the ample time needed in order to cover all of the events and still keep it entertaining. There were attempts at making certain aspects of the movie thrilling but most just fell flat. Even as the credits start to roll and all questions are answered there is a feeling of being let down. It’s like you really REALLY want to care more but you don’t. Some of that may be because Libby is hard to like. Even though she’s been through so much there’s just something about the character that makes her just “meh”. The same goes for Ben (Corey Stoll) as an adult. He’s in prison and you just don’t care. There’s actually more concern and more depth for the younger version of Ben (Tye Sheridan).
Don’t go into Dark Places thinking it’s as enjoyable as Gone Girl assuming of course that you have seen it and were one of the many that enjoyed. Personally, I didn’t see what all of the fuss was about but I digress. The characters are not as interesting and the story isn’t as intriguing. This isn’t a terrible movie or anything but it isn’t worthy of top billing in the theater. A matinee or at home is the best way to get value out of watching this. I’m also beginning to think that DirecTV, who is one of the distributors, suspected as much since they had the exclusive rights to make it available via PPV starting back on June, 18. At any rate, Dark Places is in theaters now if you’re looking for something to do this weekend. Maybe it’ll surprise you now that I’ve lowered the bar enough.