When you bring Satan into any equation, chances are, it’s going to get crazy.
Many years after the rest of her family was killed by her older brother (Corey Stoll), Libby Day (Charlize Theron) is left very screwed-up. While she seems to be getting by, her memory still haunts her to this day and remains one of the reasons people only approach her nowadays. That’s why when a true crime lover (Nicholas Hoult) finds her and offers her a chance to share her accounts of the story, she’s initially against it, but realizes that she could use the money. While she’s remembering the case though, she soon starts to see the case a whole lot clearer now, where it may possibly turn out her poor brother didn’t actually commit the murders in the first place, and maybe, just maybe, it was somebody else. However, in order to get to those answers, Libby has to go back into time a bit, rehash some old wounds, and go back to those people who she’d much rather forget. And heck, even in some cases, they wished the same thing, too.
With the huge success of Gone Girl, there’s a high demand for whatever Gillian Flynn can put out next and that’s both a blessing and a curse. Mostly, it’s a blessing if your name is David Fincher, however, if not, then mostly, it’s a curse. And no offense to writer/director Gilles Paquet-Brenner, but he’s no David Fincher. Someone who isn’t easy to be, I understand, but at the same time, it’s hard not to make a comparison when a movie such as this comes out and is easily trying to be a little hard to be like a much better, more entertaining movie.
And there’s the main problem that sets Dark Places aside from Gone Girl.
While I know it’s hard to expect a movie about a murdered family-members, Satanists, and the wrongfully convicted, there’s still something to be said for a movie like Gone Girl, where a dark and eerie premise, was still made watchable due to the fact that it was pulp cinema at its finest. It wasn’t just a quick and exciting movie, but it also felt like it didn’t take itself seriously enough to where you had to feel depressed afterwards; it’s all about murder, adultery, marriage, divorce, and crime, but at the same time, it’s still an incredibly entertaining movie.
Dark Places is a lot more serious than that movie, and as a result, is a whole lot more drab and meandering. Paquet-Brenner makes it seem like he’s really trying to aim for some sort of broken-heart at the center of this story, but what ultimately happens, is nothing. We never get to learn more about any of these characters than what’s presented to us on the surface, and when it comes down to who gets more focus, either the plot or the characters, the former most certainly wins out. Not that paying attention to a plot is a bad thing to have within a movie, but there needs to be engaging and compelling characters to help aid that premise along – something that Paquet-Brenner seems interested in trying to create, but doesn’t quite deliver on.
And it’s a huge shame too, considering that the ensemble here is pretty impressive.
Of course Charlize Theron can play this strong, but emotionally-unstable characters to a T by now, and her performance as Libby is no different. However, the role still feels so thinly-written for her, that it gets to become a bit of a bore, not to mention the fact that the movie tries incredibly hard to make us forget that it’s super model Charlize Theron we’re looking at here. I know that Monster did the same thing, but the make-up was so good, that it never once shot into my brain; Dark Places, instead, just throws jeans, caps, and sweaty shirts onto her, as if a way to over-compensate that they cast someone incredibly good-looking in a role as a tomboy.
And then, if casting Theron in a lame role wasn’t enough of a crime, then to have the likes of Nicholas Hoult, Corey Stoll, Christina Hendricks, Chole Grece Moretz, and Drea de Matteo be given the same problems, makes it all the worse. While Hendricks seems to get the meatier role of the bunch, her character goes through so many twists and turns at the end that it’s hard to keep up with who she is, what’s happening, and what is making her act the way she is. In all honesty, I saw her play a mom better in Lost River – a movie that clearly couldn’t give a crap if she existed or not.
And if your movie is already lacking in certain departments that Lost River had, you know you’re in trouble.
The only cast-member I left out of that long list of names who get screwed over by Dark Places poor-scripting, is Tye Sheridan, another young actor who seems to be more than just the real deal nowadays. Sheridan may be given the generic role of the angst-fueled teen, but he does wonders with it and shows that there’s more to this character than may be shown initially. Maybe he’s not a psycho, and more or less, just a kid who has some issues with girls and doesn’t know how to express himself in an understandable manner without acting-out or harming somebody in the process. In most ways, he’s like most ordinary teens and it’s interesting to see how this movie approaches that subject, even if, once again, it’s clearly more concerned the going-ons of what’s occurring with the mystery at the center. And honestly, there’s not much of a mystery to begin with. Once we see Moretz’s character acting all wild and insane, it becomes clear that she has something to do with it – it’s all just a matter of when.
Like, for instance, when the movie finally ends and you can go on back to re-watching Gone Girl for the 80th time.
Consensus: Despite the talented cast on-display, Dark Places is nothing more than a boring, uneventful, and uninteresting mystery-drama that has a whole bunch of twists and turns to boot, but nobody to really care about.
2.5 / 10