Release Date: June 18, 2015 (online), August 07. 2015 (In theaters)
Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Writer: Gillian Flynn (novel), Gilles Paquet-Brenner (screenplay)
Cast: Charlize Theron, Sterling Jerins, Nicholas Hoult, Christina Hendricks, Corey Stoll, Tye Sheridan, Andrea Roth, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sean Bridges, J. LaRose, Shannon Kook, Jennifer Pierce Mathus, Natalie Precht, Madison McGuire, Lori Z. Cordova, Denise Williamson
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes
Production Company: Exclusive Media Group, Mandalay Vision, Cuatro Plus Films, Da Vinci Media Ventures, Daryl Prince Productions, Denver and Delilah Productions, Hugo Productions, A24, DirecTV
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Country: UK, France, USA
One thing Dark Places got right is the title. Depending on who you ask it’s probably one of the best parts of the film. It fits perfect like a glove. Sometimes life can be hard, and knock you on your ass. The only thing that matters is what you do after that. Do you bend over, or stand up stronger? Everyone has a story to tell, and those life events can sometimes leave you in dark places. All stories don’t end with a happy ending, but they at least end with something you can take with you. Whether it’s true or fiction stories have meaning or purpose. Based off the novel (which I haven’t read) by Gillian Flynn, director Gilles Paquet-Brenner takes a swing at adapting this story for the big screen. My only question is what was the point?
I ask that question due to truly not knowing. I mean stories usually contain a happy ending, strong characters, lessons to learn from, a true account of history, or are just minutes of entertainment. Dark Places has none of these to say the least, especially a happy ending. It’s actually very uncomforting towards the end which is the main problem of the film. From the initial set up it promises you a mystery will take place, but there’s no suspense to carry it along. It jumps back and forth from past to present, and I’m still not sure which segment was most important.
Libby Day (Charlize Theron) did a mediocre job with her performance. Nothing bad came from it, but nothing memorable either. Imagining this is a true story, it would be disrespectful to assume her state of mind based off the tragedy she experienced at a younger age. Though she still comes across lazy, and doesn’t give you much to go on. There’s a mystery to be solved, but she seems the least interested of the outcome. So if she the victim, doesn’t care about the outcome, why should the viewers? It takes her a while to get on board this notion that Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult) is currently driving. He has a slight bit of misguided passion. It’s unfortunate that he’s one of the best characters, but has the least amount of screen time. So where is this screen time spent? In the past. There are no notable characters here either. Just devil worshipers, woman that literally abandoned their children, and dead beat dads. I don’t like to judge those I don’t know or assume their circumstances, but the mother in the film deserves what’s coming. I would’ve preferred she screamed to the heavens for help instead of the decision she made regarding her family. I don’t know what’s worst, the blind leading the blind to devil worshiping or the mothers’ disgusting sacrifice.
Going back to the mystery, you’re curious for the outcome, but there isn’t anything pulling you towards the edge of your seat. It gets to a point where you’re just ready for it all to end. Scene after scene the film gets drier and drier until the revelation, and all you’re left with is confusion and doubt. There was no pay off toward the end of the film. I can at least admit it wasn’t predictable, but is disturbing how you realize that no one has a moral compass. Everyone is selfish, tired, lazy, and only going through life as nothing matters. It’s frustrating at best what drives them because no characters have a soul. That goes especially for Ben Day (Corey Stoll) who makes the ultimate sacrifice for no apparent reason other than love. The emotion isn’t reciprocated so he looks foolish. He’s just another character you can’t get behind.
Dark Places had the potential to be so much more but was a misfire. I’m not sure how closely the screenplay followed the novel, and I’m not remotely interested to find out. If anything the only positive would be the performances. They weren’t great, but it’s difficult trying to find what’s positive when that’s absent. Then again, the title of the film is much appreciated. I feel it’s spot on, but if that’s all I can say I suggest you stay away.