Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


Dark Places

Dark Places
Starring:
Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Morets, The Sheridan, and Corey Stol


Rated: R for some disturbing violence, language, drug use and sexual content.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: August 7, 2015 Released by: A24 Films

Some uninspired filmmaking and an unpolished production doesn't make for an above average translation of another Gillian Flynn potboiler without the first-person voiceovers.

Dark Places stars Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road), Chloe Grace Moretz, Tye Sheridan, Corey Stoll (Ant-Man) where some unintentionally awkward moments of lunacy into cruelty rises above what is mostly contrived and jejune. Which shouldn't have been the case in coming from Gilles Paquet-Brenner who did a more creditable job of insightfully conjoining past with present in a far more sound Sarah's Key.

Suffice to say there are plenty of audacious narrative turns (like what David Fincher did quite astutely from Flynn's lauded book Gone Girl) that includes a 'Kill Club'  (fascinated with murderous re-enactments in order to reach justice). Thus a protagonist too easily turns into a dogged detective but not enough camouflaging and misdirection in reaching the truth can eschew the most obvious notes.

This kind of material from the fact of Theron's bruised Libby Day making headlines in 1985 (when satanic killings were prevalent) as an 8-year-old on a Kansas farm testifying (with some contradiction if you hear what happens from a video) that her brother Ben (Tye Sheridan) killed their mother and two sisters in cold blood could have more of the elements of the more riveting Conviction and In The Valley of Elah wrapped in it.

A crestfallen, desperate Libby is deglamorized to a degree but not the kind of character you may expect donning a trucker's cap, thereby not ensuring enough empathy in a disheveled financial state (when proceeds from her novel on the incident dwindle and donors become more fascinated with current barbarity). Hoult's edgy Lyle of the aforementioned unusual coterie lures her to a meeting and then to visit the longtime imprisoned bald, handsome and hardly intimidating Ben (Stoll, remembered from Netflix's House of Cards).

Some of the flashback sequences include Christina Hendricks (impressive on the recently departed original series Mad Men) as Libby's harried farm wife and mother hounded by creditors and saddled with a good-for-nothing husband (arguably the most authentic part on display).  The actress is fairly involving though not really given the kind of latitude the character needed when it comes to vulnerability or emphatic in the right
situations. Moretz's Diondra is Ben's girlfriend and one of her nastier turns at least when it comes to taking care of livestock.

What it comes down to even through what may be startling revelations to some just isn't a taut character-driven visceral mystery (that Theron and Hoult latched onto so well in Fury Road). Probably due to the fact that the smooth complexion of the early atrocity puts Libby in a less tenable trauma than what appeared on the page, thus more by-the-numbers and misplaced as the formerly less proactive person invests time in sleazy locales. Given the Places traipsed in particular dark matters, Paquet-Brenner and Theron can't defuse the antiseptic, corrupted
blandness in favor of a piercing, haunting thriller of protrusive proportions.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Nina Dayra Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Dark Places        C                     C 

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