Dark Places Review
This year's Gone Girl?
Despite the commitment of Charlize Theron and the popularity of Gillian Flynn’s original source novel, Dark Places isn’t this year’s Gone Girl.Although Fincher’s more successful elder sibling now overshadows this piece, Dark Places was actually shot around the same time as Gone Girl by French director Gilles Paquet-Brenner. Obviously intended to be released in time to capitalise on the success of its predecessor, it ended up being buried largely through straight-to-video or on-demand after previews probably scared promoters into cutting their losses.Whether it’s a testament to the strength of Fincher’s skills as a director, or Flynn’s capabilities as a screenwriter (she adapted Gone Girl herself whereas Paquet-Brenner adapted Dark Places), or possibly even the weaknesses of Flynn’s work, which are only magnified when you don’t have a strong, stylish director to distract you from them, Dark Places is unfortunately largely deserving of being shelved for so long.
The tale follows Theron’s haunted orphan Libby Day, whose childhood tale of horror has been celebrated for decades amongst true crime buffs, with them eventually approaching her to get her to open up about what really happened that fateful night.
Despite a strong performance from Theron, who suitably embraces the role, the game cast – involving an earnest Christina Hendricks (Drive), an over-the-top Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick Ass), a forgettable Nicolas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road) and a wasted Tye Sheridan (Mud) – largely fail to escape their underdeveloped characters or limited screen time. And the Gone Girl-esque material (complete with diary-like narration and similar nods towards media monsters, false rumours and mistaken perception, and, of course, twists aplenty) simply doesn’t hold up, tracking through a fairly protracted, poorly-paced murder mystery and leading to a suitably contrived anti-climactic finale.
You can see why they buried this insubstantial Gone Girl 'follow-up'.
Although there's still some controversy to Fincher's much-lauded 'masterpiece' - mostly surrounding the misdirection and ultimately the contrived conclusion - few would argue with the fact that it is still the accomplished work of a master auteur, let down - if anything - by the flaws in its source material. Dark Places has no such strong hand guiding it, equally struggling with fractious source material, here set across dual timelines, and the end result is far from assured, and far closer to just plain mediocre.
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