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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dark Places

I am one of those few people who didn’t like the Gone Girl movie. It did not do any sort of justice to the brilliant book that Flynn wrote. And yet Flynn herself wrote the screenplay for the Fincher directed movie; I had trouble accepting the film. But moving on, if I thought Gone Girl was bad, then Dark Places turned out to be pathetic. With its direction, with its script, with its acting, everything about the movie screamed a box office bomb. Writer/director Gilles Paquet-Brenner succeeded only in making the already under-rated Gone Girl look more accomplished than it actually is with his Dark Places.

Dark Places is Flynn’s second novel, after Sharp Objects; it is a build up to her best work till date - Gone Girl. The story is well plotted, but it’s no Gone Girl. Based in the mid-west state of Kansas, the story revolves around the tragedy of the Day family. The matriarch of the family, Patty played by the ever brilliant Christina Hendricks, struggles to keep her farm afloat with four young kids without a husband. Her oldest child Ben (Tye Sheridan) is a typical surly teenager who finds it difficult at home with three younger sisters. But this story isn’t about the mother or the brother, this one is about the youngest girl – Libby Day, who survived the massacre of her family when she was only 8 years old. The cold blooded killings bring the little girl into the limelight and she testifies that it is her brother who had killed the entire family. Having already been accused of dabbing in Satanism and child molestation, Ben is convicted of all the murders with circumstantial evidence.

The movie opens with a grown up Libby (Charlize Theron), who is embittered and cynical with life. She is contacted by one Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult) a true crime connoisseur and a member of a club fascinated by true crimes, asking her to make an appearance at their club. A broke Libby agrees to look into the past, with the promise of being paid and the audience is then taken back in time to the 8 year old Libby and that fateful day. The past and present narratives are badly synchronized and I understood what was happening only because I had read the book. The narration was hesitant, and it does not make it easy for the audience to flit in and out of the past and present.

Charlize Theron, was the worst choice for Libby day.  By no means am I doubting her acting capabilities, I mean, I love her. But Libby is supposed to be short, and in the book it is mentioned that she is a mere 5 foot 2 inches. This piece of information plays a crucial role in the climax. And yet a 5 foot 10 inches actress plays the lead. That is just bad casting. What is startling is that the movie has a talented amalgamation of actors, and yet none of them make their mark in the movie. Tye Sheridan as the young Ben is the most stoic expressionless teenager that I have ever seen. All his facial expressions are a mass of confusion. I mean I haven’t come across anyone who doesn’t even blink when slapped.  Chloe Grace Moretz as Ben’s rich spoilt girlfriend Diondra has an enjoyably off the leash portrayal as the high school girl, who does drugs, worships Satan and kills animals as part of ritualistic sacrifices.

There is no characterization in the movie; not one character build ups. Libby’s interior monologues are badly interspaced; they do not bring out the conflicts that exist within her. The narration just jumps out at you and the pacing is badly timed.  Flynn’s intention was to showcase the tough rural mid-western life of the farm owners under the garb of murder mystery, Paquet-Brenner failed on all levels to bring that out. The film almost feels lifeless and stumbles to its end with a particularly badly directed climax in spite of the revelations being hurled at the audience at quite brisk interludes. As a fan of Flynn’s writing, the film is an utter disappointment and I have not one good word to say about Dark Places.

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