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Dark Places (A Movie Review)

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

Dark Places

Dark Places


Starring Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Christina Hendricks, Corey Stoll, Tye Sheridan, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sterling Jerins, Andrea Roth, Sean Bridgers, J. LaRose, Jennifer Pierce Mathus, Shannon Kook, Drea de Matteo, Addy Miller, Dan Hewitt, Natalie Precht, Madison McGuire and Sterling Jerins.

Screenplay by Gilles Paquet-Brenner.

Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner.

Distributed by A24 Pictures.  113 minutes.  Rated R.

When former Entertainment Weekly writer Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl became a sensation in 2012, and then was quickly turned into a hit film, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood started to take dip into her back catalogue.  After all, Gone Girl was Flynn’s third well-received and cinematic novel, following the minor hits Sharp Objects (2006) and Dark Places (2009), both of which received renewed interest when Gone Girl took off.

And here we are, with Hollywood’s next look at Flynn’s work, and it is mostly a success.  The author herself is not nearly as involved here as she was in Gone Girl (for which she wrote the screenplay), but Dark Places succeeds because it is pretty faithful to the book.

Charlize Theron plays Libby Day, who as a little girl survived a massacre in her family home in which her mother and two sisters were mysteriously murdered.  Her older brother Ben has been in jail for the killings for 28 years, greatly influenced by seven-year-old Libby’s testimony that he was responsible.

In the years since, she has become a jaded, miserable loner who has lived off of her long-faded notoriety.  Playing the professional victim for almost three decades has made her bitter, exceedingly sensitive to being touched and hidden in her own small little world.  The slight cottage industry she has made – including a ghostwritten autobiography and the collection of donations from good-hearted Samaritans – has slowed to a trickle and suddenly she finds she’s almost out of money and desperate for any funds just to continue to live.

This desperation leads her to accept an offer by a group called “The Kill Club,” an oddball group of homicide enthusiasts who spend their time going over and trying to solve past murders, particularly ones that have not been solved or have questionable resolutions.  When she goes to speak before the group, it quickly becomes obvious that they know more about what happened that night than Libby does – which makes a certain amount of sense, after all she was seven-years old, scared and confused when it happened and the idea of regularly going over and studying the worst night in your life hardly seems like an attractive idea.

It turns out that most of the members of the Kill Club are determined that Ben was falsely imprisoned and blame Libby for lying on the stand.  Though Libby doesn’t believe that and is horrified by the idea that what she has assumed for 28 years is wrong, she sees a way to make a decent amount of money off of these obsessives.  She agrees to look into what happened in exchange for money, speak with the other people involved and look through what evidence she still has.

And this is basically the format of Dark Places, we watch Libby looking into the murders, interspersed with flashbacks of what really happened back then, until the truth is finally unearthed.

If the ending is a tiny bit of a disappointment, that is on the book.  After all, if you recall, even Gone Girl‘s denoument was a bit of disappointment, though Gone Girl director David Fincher was smart enough to change the novel’s ending somewhat, though it was still a bit of an anti-climax.

However, for most of the running time, Dark Places is a twisty, satisfying thriller, just like the novel that inspired it.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2015 All rights reserved. Posted: August 15, 2015.

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