Cinematic Releases: Dark Places

Hot off the Fury Road, Charlize burns a hole with Dark Places. 

charlize theron
"Trucker hat. Dig."
Last year’s Gone Girl took the masterfully paced and sharply written Gillian Flynn novel of the same name and brought it to the silver screen with the help of a talented director and a skilled cast.  Unsurprisingly, Flynn’s second novel, Dark Places, was rapidly adapted and will see a theatrical release in early August 2015.  Available now, however, on DirecTV – how does the film fare in its small screen debut?

In short, not particularly well.  Unlike the subject matter upon which the movie is based, the film adaptation of Dark Places feels forced.  What should have made for a tense, character driven thriller feels ultimately flat – largely uninteresting cinematography, some lazy performances, and a forgettable soundtrack – Dark Places is perhaps best described in one word: “meh".

Not a bad movie, to be sure, but an immensely weak follow-up to the haunting and beautiful Gone Girl.  Charlize Theron’s portrayal of Libby Day, our flawed and barely likeable hero, lacks any meaningful depth.  Supposedly haunted by the trauma of her past, proclaiming herself tainted by “bad blood” and nearly constant anger, Theron appears to do little to bring these raw emotions to the forefront of her performance.  A similar sense of vague laziness corrupts ChloĆ« Grace Moretz’s turn as Diondra in the film’s flashback scenes.  Both of these actresses have more than proven their acting chops in their careers, which is perhaps simply an indictment of the film’s director Gilles Paquet-Brenner.

chloe grace moretz
"We're here to defend the Confederate flag."
Even the story elements pulled from the novel struggle to meet the audience’s expectations.  While the novel is filled with subtleties and misdirection, the film practically bashes the viewer upside the head with foreshadowing.  One could make the argument that this isn’t a fair complaint from a viewer that already experienced the story through the original subject matter, but a good mystery story should only get better on subsequent viewing – clues should be clever and rewarding to the careful eye – no such care is necessary for a viewer of Dark Places.  Perhaps the best scenes in the film are unintentional; several moments capture the awkward idiocy of misguided teenagers rather brilliantly, although I’m not so certain that was the intended effect.

Sadly, even the film’s denouement felt anemic, despite its bold and creative twists.  Even if the viewer is totally blindsided by these moments, the weak camera work and accompanying soundtrack do little to capture the viewer in the horror. Save your summer movie budget for something a bit more worthwhile.

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-Patrick B. McDonald