Rating: B-/ Flaws aside, I don’t think this movie is as bad as the critics say. Sure, the characters are fairly unlikable and the plot twist doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny, but I was invested throughout the entire film in what was going to happen next (which is strange, since the lead character actually kind of annoyed me.) Plus, I love Charlize Theron, no matter what kind of fucked-up head case she’s playing (take the Oscar-winning crime drama Monster, for example. )
Here she plays a screwed-up chick named Libby Day, the only survivor of the massacre that killed her mother and sisters and landed her brother in prison years ago. As far as Libby is concerned, the case is closed, but the extremely creepy murder-obsessed organization the Kill Club has other ideas. Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult,) a member of the branch of Kill Club that solves closed cases (the others are kind of serial killer cosplayers, not creepy at all (!)) encourages Libby to open her mind to the possibilities of what happened that night and do a little detective work of her own.
We are also offered flashbacks of Libby’s long suffering mother Patty Day (Christina Hendricks) and her three siblings, including a brother (Tye Sheridan) who seems to be a little too much into satanic shit. Patty’s about to lose the family farm, her estranged ex-husband (Sean Bridgers) is an unreliable P.O.S., and she has no idea where her son is 90% of the time. So when the boy is accused of Satanic rituals and the sexual molestation of several little girls, what is she supposed to think? All this is, of course, leading up to the murder, and in classic murder mystery style nothing here is as it appears.
There’s not a lot of subtlety in this film; Libby is pretty much portrayed as acerbic and combative from square one and everything you need to know you learn from flash-backs that might seem heavy handed compared to the smooth, insinuating backstory of say, Blue Ruin. It reminded me a little of the fellow adaptation Every Secret Thing in it’s insistence to use almost cop show like methods to explain the plot.
Gone Girl this ain’t (having been based on a novel by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, some comparisons are obviously going to be made,) but the actors are good and the story keeps you guessing throughout, even if the pay-off is a little… disappointing due to it’s lack of realism. Even Chloe Grace Moretz (who was unfairly maligned for her role in this and basically everything she’s played in in recent years) did a decent job as the brother Ben’s Borderline girlfriend. She’s annoying, but I think she’s meant to be. Theron is great as always, playing a tormented (if not particularly sympathetic) character.
So, I can somewhat see where the criticism for Dark Places came from but I urge you to see the movie for yourself before you assume the worst. I had my questions and there were things I found absolutely implausible about the climactic reveal, but at the same time it kept me intrigued and entertained and nothing with Theron can be all bad (okay, except maybe Hancock.) I think people were disappointed that this movie wasn’t another Gone Girl but it’s not completely awful either. It’s relatively entertaining and the actors do their best with the material they’ve got. Sometimes, that’s enough to make a fairly lightweight film a worthy one-time watch.