I still remember how Gone Girl began, the very first background score to chasing Amy. Everything just made sense. I recently saw Dark Places. The first few things that comes to my mind while I sit down to write about it would be: A pixie haired Charlize Theron in a green colored cap & leather jacket and a brilliant background score that wasn’t used judiciously. When it should be about how interesting and ballistic the plot was.
Dark Places is the second movie adaption of a novel by Gillian Flynn. The first one was obviously the brilliant Gone Girl by David Fincher. Gilles Paquet-Brenner is no David Fincher. It’s made evident from the very first shot and goes on being the same till the last one. The biggest mistake a director could make with a cast and source material like that would be dumbing it down to a bland, un-engaging murder mystery that looks like an episode of a show that has got its ratings all messed up. When you watch the film you see a series of interesting themes, for instance: There’s this whole sweep of satanism that happened back in the day. There are freaky murder groups and father issues, there is poverty and forgiveness going on too. But instead of leading you through those along the lines of a cleverly driven narrative, Gilles takes you through a dramatic ill pitched screenplay that basically just checks-off all the themes that are to be told. The film feels like a 90s direct to DVD release where someone picked up a murder novel at the garage sale and decided that he could do wonders with it.
Dark Places is about Libby Day (Charlize Theron). As a child she has witnessed the murder of her whole family which she believes is committed by her brother. Ever since ‘that’ night she has been living on the fame and donations of the people who have heard about the crime and want to help her out. But her life is taking a turn when the donations go scarce. In-comes Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult) & The Kill Club who take her from being an uninterested middle aged women to being a detective of sorts. She starts digging her past and every single turn takes her to a new discovery.
While the plot might sound interesting the execution is all haywire. Never in the film you feel the actual excitement of watching a whodunit tale. Also while it manages to have your attention it leaves you with a “Wait? That’s it?” kind of a deal. I haven’t read the book but I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be made the way it was. I don’t know who I should blame more, The source material, the director or the lackluster writing in the film?
I am really angry with the film because things like ‘The Kill Club’ are so interesting to look at that they could surround a whole new movie around themselves and yet, Gilles Paquet-Brenner makes the huge mistake of letting things just fall into his lap on their own. Everything looks so tiresome that its off-putting at times. I am not cancelling the film out completely because there are some really interesting things in there but a film buff demands more than just mere gimmicks.
Charlize Theron does her best and so does Christina Hendricks but everyone else including the amazing Tye Sheridan have been under-used. They come and go off the screen through flashbacks and backtracks but never seem to make a mark. The fictional tale behind the Day family is morally ambiguous, the themes surrounding them are deadly too. What they needed was a proper focus. While David Fincher’s Gone Girl did that with style where he picked up one main theme and let whatever else come to the surface on its own, Gilles takes a different approach by cramping everything he could into a two hour long film which totally fucks it up. It becomes a standard procedure of uncovering the core mystery rather than being a sequential meditation of subjects discussed.
Final Verdict: I wouldn’t recommend Dark Places. However, the book might not have the same problem that the film did. Choose wisely.