#REVIEW: “DARK PLACES”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Gone Girl was one of last fall’s most talked about Films. David Fincher’s impeccable directing and Gillian Flynn’s Adaptation of her deliciously-twisted Best-Seller made for what is easily a masterpiece of modern cinema (and a terrifyingly hilarious dissection of marriage). Zap forward less than a year later, and we have another adaptation of a Flynn Novel – Dark Places. It does not have the same prestige behind it, but the Story is just as unique and if you would believe it, is even more disturbing.
Libby Day (Charlize Theron) has lived a mostly comfortable life, but is trying desperately to forget the past. When she was a young girl, she was the only survivor of a massacre that left her mother Patty (Christina Hendricks) and two sisters murdered, and her brother sent to prison for committing the crimes. But when she is contacted by the amateur investigator ‘Kill Club’ who believe her brother is innocent, Libby is forced to open old wounds and revisit a story that might be a lot different than she remembers.
The Story that propels Dark Places takes a number of intriguing turns over its running time, and often left me guessing. It takes a similar format to Gone Girl, cutting between the present and the past, but lacks its cohesion. It jumps on a whim between timelines, spending more time in the past than the present. Worse, the Film gets so convoluted in red herrings and useless information that by the time the mystery gets solved in the Third Act, you might be more baffled than you are surprised. I found that what compelled me so deeply in Gone Girl was completely missing here.
After turning in such a ferocious performance in Mad Max: Fury Road, it was incredibly-disappointing to see Theron not put any of the same effort in here (her Co-Star in that Film, Nicholas Hoult, tries but fails to leave a mark on this Film). Her character Libby is tormented and confused, but we never really get to see it – we can only gleam it from her increasingly irritating narration. She seems to stumble from one interview and revelation to the next, with only the faintest motivation. It is a very low-key performance, and one that lacks any real payoff by the time the credits roll. Compare that to Hendricks, who is near unrecognizable as Libby’s mom Patty in the flashback scenes. She gives it her all, and overcomes the Script’s shortcomings to give a devastating performance. I feel a contrasting narration from Hendricks’ Character could have only helped how stifled Theron’s performance comes off.
Despite a stacked Cast of recognizable talent (including a ludicrously over-the-top Chloe Grace Moretz), the only other true stand out is Tye Sheridan as Libby’s brother Ben. The pain in his eyes sears across the screen, and helps add a deeply emotional element to the Film (the great Corey Stoll goes underused as the older Ben in prison). You hang on each of his moves, and really feel the weight of everything in this Character’s life. It is a wonderful supporting turn that continues to prove what an incredible young talent he has quickly become.
The mystery at the heart of Dark Places is an intriguing one, but the movie around it is not nearly as interesting. It is a moderately enjoyable film even with its flaws, and it packs a terrific performance from young Sheridan. But the inevitable comparisons to Gone Girl hold it back from being truly extraordinary.
Remstar Films release DARK PLACES, in theatres Friday, August 7, 2015.