Movie Reviews

Review: 'Dark Places'

By David LeeMovies - 03 July 2015 6:17 PM

Review: 'Dark Places'

Our Rating

3/5 Stars

Coming off hot on the heels of the success of ‘Gone Girl’, it is no wonder that Gillian Flynn’s second novel, which she wrote before ‘Gone Girl’, is now being turned into a major motion picture filled with big name stars.

Charlize Theron plays the leading female protagonist Libby Day, who in present day is still haunted by the trauma of witnessing her mother and two sisters being murdered 28 years ago at their farmhouse in Kansas, Missouri.

Nicholas Hoult, who coincidentally starred with Theron in the blazing hot ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, plays Lyle, an enthusiastic fanboy of the murder case, who wants to draw Libby back into the investigation and prove Libby’s incarcerated brother’s innocence.

Chloë Grace Moretz and 'Mad Men's' Christina Hendricks round up the star-studded cast, playing two key characters from frequent flashbacks that are relevant to Libby and her brother’s story.


Charlize Theron plays Libby Day in 'Dark Places' | Photo: Cathay Keris

The film features an all round solid casting of actors, especially Theron single handedly carries almost the entire movie.

Hidden beneath the veneer of a cynical and uncaring front, Theron conveys the extreme pain and vulnerabilities of a woman still haunted by the nightmarish events from her childhood 28 years ago as the only survivor of her family who accused her own brother of committing the murders, and thus benfitting financially from the tragedy when the events are turned into a best-selling book.

The film initially throws up some intriguing questions: Was Libby a confused young girl or did she deliberately lie to incriminate her brother? Was the brother really innocent as professed by members of the Lyle’s ‘kill club’, and if that’s really the case, who is the real murderer? 

MORE: 5 memorable roles of Charlize Theron

Director Giles Paquet-Brenner gradually unveils more via the frequent flashbacks. And we see more of Christina Hendricks’ Patty, a desperate mother facing foreclosure on the family farm, and having difficulties with her estranged ex-husband and her eldest wayward son Ben, on top of the day-to-day running of a household to feed four children.

Hendricks convincingly plays a woman tired of her life and filled with guilt and anxieties of an uncertain future, on the verge of breaking point

Chloë Grace Moretz sizzles as young femme fatale Diondra, who seduced Ben into joining her cult of devil worshipping and violent antics.

Another revelation in casting is Tye Sheridan, who plays a younger Ben -- a socially awkward young teenager who may or may not have been the perpetrator of the heinous crime of massacring his own family. 


Christina Hendricks (second from left) in 'Dark Places' | Photo: Cathay Keris

Instead of Flynn adapting her own novel for the big screen, which is what she did for ‘Gone Girl’, director Gilles Paquet-Brenner also doubles as the screenwriter, which is a possible reason why the screenplay does not pace well in building up suspense and mystery, and several setups came across as too easy and predictable.

For instance, it's too easy for Libby to just meet up with her brother at prison on the lure of $800 from Lyle.

When the real antagonist is finally revealed, there's a slight hint of the involvement of a satanic cult, but instead of developing that aspect further, the finale cops out with a generic CNN news report.

More missed opportunities are that of the chemistry and relationship between Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult.  

It would have been more interesting if the initial encounter with Lyle and his ‘kill club’ members led to some pay-off, instead of just having Nicholas Hoult’s Lyle playing an almost second fiddle sidekick to Libby, appearing on screen when necessary to help Libby further her investigation and advancing the plot.

The social commentary of the public fascination with sensational media reportage was only mildly hinted in ‘Dark Places’, compared to the revealing insights and relevance to the plot in ‘Gone Girl’. 

Certainly a lot of wasted opportunities with a talented cast of actors assembled for this film, one can’t help but feel that this big screen adaptation is not fully doing justice to Flynn’s original story. 

‘Dark Places’ is now showing

Dark Places