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Dark Places

Dark Places: Dreary in All the Wrong Ways

  • Charlize TheronChloë Grace Moretz...
  • DramaThriller
  • Gilles Paquet-Brenner
reviewed by
Marija Loncarevic
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Dark Places: Dreary in All the Wrong Ways

Among many other issues, Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s mystery-thriller, Dark Places, is missing two key things: gravitas and grittiness. Adapted from Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name – a book published before her best-selling hit, Gone Girl –too many disappointing turns throughout the film’s rather jaded set-up only serve to form a bland and trite viewing experience.

The story is centred on Libby Day (Theron); the sole survivor of a brutal murder that took the lives of her two sisters and mother, Patty (Hendricks). The catch? Her older brother, Ben – played Tye Sheridan as a teen and House of Cards’ Corey Stoll as an adult – was convicted of the crimes, thanks to the testimony Libby gave as a seven-year-old child.

Traumatised and tormented as an adult by the events, Libby faces bankruptcy and finds a quick and temporary fix in Lyle (Hoult) – a member of amateur detective group, The Kill Club, who find some kind of cathartic pleasure in digging up questionable cases. Believing that Ben could be innocent, the group approaches Libby, who is offered money in exchange for helping to shed some light on her brother’s case, forcing her to revisit her harrowing past.

Struggling with the consistency and the overall tone of the film, there’s very little suspense or sense of intrigue in Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s drab script – a far cry from David Fincher’s beautifully envisioned and masterfully told Gone Girl. Not only does it suffer from over-plotting – satanic rituals, family-farm foreclosures, teenage pregnancies – but also somehow forgets to include its main protagonist in the story. 

Told through flashbacks, the film spends most of its time moving back and forth from the days leading up to the murder to the present, where we are given pretty lifeless and disconnected version of Ms. Theron, seemingly doing her best impressions of Kristen ‘Bella Swan’ Stewart, with her usual talent and charm going largely underused. Meanwhile, though, Hendricks is compelling as the struggling mother – and probably the only noteworthy thing about this entire affair.

Wishy-washy and all-round characterless, Dark Places is neither as dark nor as daring as its synopsis, title and everything else about it suggests. In fact, it’s disappointingly vanilla and a film better left off for a small-screen viewing.   

Like This? Try

Gone Girl (2014), North Country (2005), In Cold Blood (1967)

360 Tip

During the development of the film, Amy Adams was cast in the lead role, though she dropped out almost as soon as the project was green-lit, paving the way for Theron. Good decision.

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