Oct 26, 2015

[Movies] Dark Places (2015)

A lot of times when I need to find a movie to review for Mondays, I end up relying on my partner Tobie to provide material. And while most of his movie interests lay in the horror genre, he does gather a bunch of other titles in quirky areas for various reasons. And it's in this window of creative eccentricity that we really find ourselves on common ground as we enjoy trying new movies to see what comes out.

Dark Places was a movie that I had never heard about and one that he had dug up because Charlize Theron had starred in it. And given the performance she had executed in Mad Max: Fury Road, I can understand why he had been looking for other movies that she was involved in.

It seems part of the reasons that this movie initially slipped past us was the fact that it had originally premiered in France all the way back in April. It only saw a US theatrical release in August, so that was quite a gap between the dates. And let's face it, most European releases don't automatically make their way here to the Philippines.

Synopsis: Dark Places is a 2015 mystery drama movie written and directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner. The story was based on a novel of the same name written by Gillian Flynn.

Our central character is one Libby Day (Charlize Theron), who is the sole survivor of the massacre of her family when she was much younger. Her only living relative is her brother Ben (Corey Stoll), who is still serving a prison sentence for the murder of their mother and their sisters. Eventually Libby is approached by Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult) and his group of amateur investigators, who try to solve crimes together. They regularly try to reach out to individuals like Libby and try to puzzle trough their cases.

Thus the movie also goes through a series of flashbacks centered around the life of Libby's brother Ben a the time. Thus we learn that he was a bit of a social outcast while their family in general was known for the fact that they were being raised by their mother (Christina Hendricks) alone and she clearly didn't have the means to effectively support her children. We also see a number of scenes involving a young Diondra Wertzer (Chloë Grace Moretz), a friend of Ben's who seems to lead him on a dark path related to satanism.

Now there will always be these sorts of drama movies that end up with a dark and somber mood setting that results in a lot of mumbling. Maybe it was just our copy of the movie, but I swear that it was terribly difficult to understand what people were trying to say since they were pretty much dependent on delivering their lines in this largely flat, emotionally drained manner. And this alone made enjoying the movie rather difficult.

I'm sure that on its own, the movie certainly had a potentially interesting plot. But at the same time, it was unable to tell this story in a manner that actually made us members of the audience get hooked into the narrative. It was all just laid out there in front of us in a manner that felt devoid of passion in terms of the storytelling. And considering how horrific a central part of the story was meant to be in terms of the massacre of the Day family, it just didn't register.

To be fair, Charlize Theron's performance was generally consistent with what she sort of accomplished in Mad Max: Fury Road, since both characters were generally quite driven but not overly lost in obsession or something. But at the same time, but perhaps this manner of acting wasn't perfectly appropriate for this movie or it wasn't utilized in a manner effective to the delivery of the story. So she was cold but also perhaps a bit too cold for the movie to really drive things home.

The flashbacks were intriguing but also abrupt and thus it's not immediately apparent that there was a flashback to begin with and who the heck were these characters being shown on the screen. It was all very, very weird initially and then the final payoff didn't feel entirely there. The final reveal as to what had actually happened was interesting enough but the way it was shown on the screen just lacked that sort of flair you expect from a movie.

Dark Places might be a decent adaptation of the book in terms of its details - I can't comment since I haven't read it and have no plans of doing so. If anything, it wasn't quite as bad as it could have been; it just came across rather dry. And so the movie gets 2 strange "Satanic" things the kids do out of a possible 5.

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