Dark Places Blu-ray Review
Gillian Flynn burst on to the scene with her third novel “Gone Girl”. It was thrilling how she weaved a tale that zigged when you thought it would zag. A successful movie with Ben Affleck came soon after. “Dark Places” was her second novel. It wasn’t as good as “Gone Girl”, but it still showed what a strong writer she was. The movie DARK PLACES doesn’t quite match the book in intensity or chills. It’s a competent retelling of the novel with fine actors involved.
Charlize Theron stars as Libby Day, a hard scrabbled woman who survived a massacre at her family farm in Kansas. Libby lived off that infamy for years through a book and donations from people. She testified against her brother and this helped send him away to prison. Now she has run out of money and options. So she decides to take an offer from Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult). He’s involved in an organization called the Kill Club. They are interested in famous murders and cases. They also look into cases that they think the wrong person was put away. And they think Libby’s brother did not kill his family.
Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner is working from his own script. He does well by weaving from present day to 1985 when the murders occurred. There was a farm crisis back then and the Day family was swimming in debt. The director does capture the time and place. There was a lot of people hurting back then. Patty Day (Christina Hendricks) is trying to raise her 3 daughters Libby (Sterling Jenis as the younger Libby), Michelle (Natalie Precht), Debby (Madison McGuire) and her troubled teen son Ben (Tye Sheridan as the younger Ben; Corey Stoll as present day Ben) with no help from her ex-husband Runner (Sean Bridgers). The creditors are coming after her and hope is slowly going away.
The movie is easy to follow. It’s not too jarring when they go back and forth in time. The present day Libby investigates the case further. She tries to find the supposed girlfriend that Ben had and the girl who he allegedly molested. She also talks with her deadbeat father and relives the good times with him. She talks to her brother at prison as she tries to unravel what he says is true or not.
The past slowly reveals its secrets. Ben is seeing a wild girl named Diondra (Chloe Grace Moretz). Diondra is definitely not a girl who is a good influence. She smokes, drinks and carouses. She also gets Ben into Satan worshipping. She is a little older than Ben, so he is captivated by her and her experienced ways. This is quite believable. Ben is a loner at school and is trying desperately to fit in. He gets sucked up into her group. She treats him more as a eager groupie than her boyfriend. At the same time Ben is accused of serious crimes by some younger girls. The police are looking for him to question him.
That is the landscape that is presented in the film. It is the dusty Midwest where bad things can happen. The impressive cast does all it can to drum up suspense in the film. I didn’t feel that the screenplay did enough to succeed here. It felt more like a Law & Order episode. That was a great show for sure, but this felt very procedural. Libby is just going from suspect to suspect collecting clues like a cop would. It just doesn’t quite come together. I also had big problems with the book and now with the movie with the resolution. I never bought it. They did do some subtle changes to one character and it still didn’t feel right. DARK PLACES is a just an okay thriller that stays grounded when it should have taken off.
Video: The state of Louisiana fills in well for Kansas.
Audio: The sound was not great. I had to use the closed captioning throughout.
Bringing Dark Places to Light (23:08): The producers, director, the author and some of the stars discuss the making of the film. The director talks about how he got involved and how Theron came into the picture. Flynn goes over the casting and what she thought of the characters.
About the Author: Gillian Flynn and Dark Places (9:16): Flynn reveals that “In Cold Blood” was a big influence on the book. She also talks about growing up in Kansas and how she wanted to put a spotlight on the state.