Hillary T., Here…
Gillian Flynn wrote three books: Sharp Objects, Dark Places and Gone Girl. She has a very distinct writing style and the books are filled with a darkness and a narrative that is riveting and disturbing and draws you in. It’s what makes her books so enjoyable and so suspenseful.
Gone Girl came out last year, and was directed by David Fincher and was a brilliant and remarkable film with a dark, edgy feel. I loved it, and it was true to the book, retaining a lot that darkness and feel that Gillian Flynn creates in her novels.
Dark Places tries so hard to be that follow up Fincher film, that opus: an all star cast with Charlize Theron (recently seen in Mad Max: Fury Road) as the lead, Libby Day, a young girl in her 30’s who is the sole survivor of the massacre of her family in the fictional town of Kinnakee, Kansas. After witnessing the murder of her two sisters and her mother to what appears to be a Satanic cult killing, she becomes socially awkward and withdrawn. Her brother, Ben Day, played as an adult by Corey Stoll (recently seen in Ant-Man) is picked up for the crime, and sentenced to life in prison. Libby testifies that Ben committed the murders.
Present Day: Libby is unable to function in this world, so she is low on cash, and is contacted by a group known as the “Kill Club,” run by a guy named Lyle Wirth and played by Nicholas Hoult (also recently seen in Mad Max: Fury Road). For a guest appearance at the Kill Club, they will pay Libby $500. What they don’t tell her is that they are trying to get her brother released. Nicholas Hoult is barely used in this movie, and his character is so rich in the book, especially since he show Libby what it is like to have an interaction and a relationship- just contact, with someone, and he misses the mark on this merely because this character interaction is cut from the film.
This is all backstory. The book lays this out meticulously and perfectly and is told from different characters perspective. However, this movie adaptation, directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, lacks the power of the different and artful narratives. Each character has a chance to shine in Flynn’s book, and it is an element that is missing in this movie. There is a lot of little nuances from the character descriptions that are important that are missing. Libby’s red hair, the reason why she has shuffling gait, her kleptomania… All of these elements are important and are skipped over in the movie. Charlize Theron’s hair is blonde throughout the film, and she doesn’t change clothes at all. She is also not a small and timid looking girl, which is how Gillian Flynn describes Libby at the beginning- as someone who dyes her hair, and is hiding who she really is.
The same with Corey Stoll. The whole family has red hair, and Ben was trying to hide from it- as a teenager Ben dyes it. There are a lot of small details with Ben’s story that are rushed, and incomplete- if you’ve read the book, you know what they are, if you haven’t I wont spoil it all for you.The hardest part for me was with the fact the movie misses it’s mark with the narrative, and that is what takes both Ben and Libby from being miles apart in the beginning of the book to converging and meeting at the end. It’s touching and hopeful, and the movie washes over it with a Lifetime feel.
Chloe Grace Moretz plays a flat Diondra, and it breaks my heart, because she has such range, and is capable of so much more. Her performance is forced and tired.
One of the best performances is that of a bit role, Magda, played by Lori Z. Cordova. She plays the character like she read the book, and got what Magda was about. Magda is a part of the Kill Club, and a fan of Ben Day. She reaches into it, and comes out of it conveying Flynn’s original vision.
Charlize Theron gives a great performance, as she always does, but unfortunately it makes no sense. Her shuffling gait is to show that Libby is withdrawn, and introverted, but it’s a visual cue that is too blatant and far too obvious. She is far too understated and her acting choices make no sense without the books brilliant narrative. This movie has a twist, as does Gone Girl, but it is so understated that you almost miss it. I would say wait for video for this one.
2 out of 5 Stars
– Hillary Thomas