Since all the way back in 2012, we’ve been hearing about about Dark Places. When I had first heard that A24 would be distributing this my mere level of interest grew into a state of excitement. The source material of Dark Places comes from Gone Girl author, Gillian Flynn’s sophomore novel of the same name. Sticking close to the source material in his adaptation, writer-director Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s film tells the story of Libby Day, who is the sole survivor of the vicious slaughter of her family in their Kansas farmhouse back when she was only seven. Now, 25 years after the fact, Day is still haunted by her disturbing past. In the beginning of the film it’s revealed that Day only has a couple hundred dollars left in her account. Now desperate for any cash she can find, Libby is approached by a team of amateur investigators, who go by the name “The Kill Club.” Originally offered $500 to come talk and them about what she remembers, Libby negotiates her price up to $700 dollars, thus setting the plot in motion.
While writer-director Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s previous efforts have been far from extraordinary, Dark Places boasts an incredibly promising cast, ranging all the way from Mad Men star Christina Hendricks to the incredibly talented Chloe Moretz. To much surprise, the performances are nothing special here. I’d even go as far as saying that they are quite bad. Our main character, Libby Day, who was originally cast to be played by the magnificent Amy Adams, is played quite poorly here by the Oscar award-winning actress Charlize Theron. Having just recently seen her incredibly lively performance in Fury Road, I was left completely cold from her here. Having to be the anchor of the film is naturally a tough job. Theron just does not nearly bring enough of the raw emotion that she brought to her character in Monster to really capture the distress her character is dealing with.
As Libby begins to question her past, we begin to see flashbacks of her childhood. These flashbacks begin to engulf the film. Besides the fact they were not in the least bit interesting, the flashbacks really jumbled the pacing of the film. The present day side of the story is incredibly fast-paced. It’s really difficult to get attached to the events onscreen and what the characters are going through at this point in time when the scene is over in a blink of an eye. The flashback scenes on the other hand draw zero interest from the audience. The film is so incoherently pieced together that it took me a second to figure out that the flashback scenes were actually flashbacks. The casting choices are so unbelievable. The girl who is playing the young Libby Day is supposed to be seven; the actress, who can hardly act, looks to be around ten-years-old.
Moretz is somehow even worse here, which I was truly astonished by. Having given one of the best performances of the year so far in the multi-layered Clouds of Sils Maria, I was expecting much more from her. Tye Sheridan, who is supposed to be the younger self of Libby’s brother, is somehow even worse here. I wasn’t quite sure of Sheridan until I saw his performance in Entertainmentearlier this year. Sheridan attempts to pull off a disturbed teenager and he just falls flat on his face here. He comes across incredibly whiney and really brings no charisma to the role. His relationship with Moretz is incredibly clichéd and is an absolute drudgery to sit through.
Dark Places is far and away the worst film A24 has released so far. As a director, Paquet-Brenner fails to utilize his incredibly talented cast and as a writer, he completely fails to adapt the compelling source material into a film. He doesn’t push the mystery of Day’s case at all, nor does he provide any real interest on the case. Dark Places has the same kind of drama you would expect from a Lifetime movie. There were quite a few moments that were unintentionally hilarious throughout the course of the film, which really made me wonder why such a great cast would sign onto this.