Dwelling in even grimmer terrain than Flynn’s pulpy page-turner “Gone Girl,” the murder mystery turns on Libby Day (Charlize Theron), the sole survivor of the 1985 mass murder of her family of Kansas farmers committed by her teenage brother Ben—or did he actually commit these gruesome, purportedly Satanic killings? Now grown up, in her early 30s and barely eking a living out of her faded celebrity status, Libby is approached by members of the “Kill Club,” an underground society of true-crime devotees. She reluctantly takes on their assignment to track down her missing father, finally face her life-imprisoned brother and solve whether or not Ben was actually responsible.
Thanks to its deeply cynical and sarcastic narrator, the 2009 novel is a slick, nasty and wincingly funny read with a female protagonist who for some may be even more unlikable than “Gone Girl”‘s enigmatic Amy Dunne. The cast also includes Corey Stoll, Tye Sheridan, Chloë Grace Moretz, Nicholas Hoult, Sterling Jerins and Christina Hendricks.
Without Flynn, whose witty and vivid prose carries this dark tale, aboard the script, can this really deliver on the promise of “Gone Girl”? Still, A24 and DirecTV should net some dough for “Dark Places,” whenever it secures a stateside release date. Written and directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, the film opens in Paris on April 8th.
Here’s what the early trade reviews are saying so far. Clip and trailer below.
As heroines go, it’s refreshing to get one as complex as this: When psychologically scarred female characters do turn up in thrillers, they’re usually little more than shivering victims who set a group of male cops in motion, but here, Libby does her own detective work, while Hendricks lends star power to the flashback scenes. Society assumes that there must have been a single male killer, but the explanation defies such conventional thinking (even if it replaces it with a ludicrous alternative). And when Libby’s investigation eventually leads to its disappointing end, there’s no man waiting on the sidelines to rescue her — all intriguing new flavors in an otherwise bland potboiler.
There’s simply too much going on in the book to condense into a two-hour movie, although Paquet-Brenner – who brought another flashbacking bestseller, “Sarah’s Key,” to the screen in 2010 – does a decent job packing as much in as possible while helping us connect all the dots. But his emphasis on breakneck storytelling and multiple plot strands misses out on some of the novel’s finer points, especially those involving the humiliation suffered by Ben and Libby as poor farm kids growing up in a place where farming is no longer a viable way of life. (The fact that the Kansas-set story was mostly lensed in Louisiana doesn’t necessarily help matters, tax credits be damned.)