Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Dark Places - film review

Dark Places, first screened last year, stars (and is produced by) Charlize Theron, and is based on a book by that gifted author Gillian Flynn, whose Gone Girl is (arguably) the finest crime novel of the past ten years. And it is certainly not a bad film. But as that damning-with-faint-praise sentence suggests, it is hardly a masterpiece, either.

In addition to Gone Girl, I've read Flynn's excellent novel Sharp Objects, but I've not got round to Dark Places, so I didn't know quite what to expect as regards the film's storyline. In fact, it offers a great deal of potential. Libby (played by Theron) has survived a sensational killing thirty years ago in which her mother and two siblings died. Her brother Ben was convicted of the crimes, and is still in prison.

Libby is approached by a chap from a "Kill Club", an intriguingly eccentric bunch with a passion for real life crimes, and this prompts her to revisit her past. What she finds there, needless to say, is macabre and distressing. And - you are ahead of me here - it turns out that all was not as it seemed.

The premise is clever, and there is a lot to admire in this film. But Theron's muted performance - she spends almost the whole film looking moody and wearing a baseball cap - sums the film up: an opportunity has been wasted. Instead of a suspense classic, we have a rather protracted so-so mystery, and as a result we don't care very much about the truth of the crime, or about what happens to the protagonists. I came to this film with high expectations, which were to some extent disappointed. A real shame.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I think your feelings are similar to the general consensus. I think SHARP OBJECTS will be a better film.

Deb said...

Martin--I must respectfully disagree with your contention that GONE GIRL is arguably the finest crime novel in the last decade. It is unarguably the most popular and best-selling crime novel of recent vintage (although THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN--another book whose popularity baffles me--might be giving it a run for its money), but "best"? Not with those unsympathetic characters, armchair-level psychological insights, and a twist you could see coming a mile away.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Patti. Deb, thanks to you too. I'm always interested in what Julian Symons used to call "reasoned contradiction". I've not read The Girl on the Train yet. I feel that unsympathetic characters are apt to be a drawback, but - as with some of the Berkeley/Iles novels - sometimes the skill of the writer overcomes that disadvantage, and I did feel that was true of Gone Girl.