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Dark Places
Genre Crime
 
Review:

Dark Places is a movie with a personal slant for lead actress, Charlize Theron, who witnessed her mother kill her father in self-defense after he arrived home drunk in 1991. Gillian Flynn's novel has been adapted to film by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, after David Fincher did the same for Gone Girl. Instead of a married couple, we follow a willful yet troubled women by the name of Libby Day in Dark Places.

The film deals with her thirty years after her sisters and mother were murdered on their farm, as Day is coerced into confronting the demons of her past and unearthing cathartic truths. We jump back-and-forth in time as events building up to the night are juxtaposed with Day's present circumstances as we too, grapple with her delayed journey of self-discovery.

It's as if Flynn was influenced by the documentary West of Memphis, which recounts the grisly murder of three Arknasas boys in 1993, who became known as the West Memphis Three. The true crime derived it's own adaptation starring Colin Firth in The Devil's Knot, yet there are marked similarities in tone, pacing and story as our lead re-examines old evidence, revisits testimonies, discovers links with the Occult and reconnects with her seemingly apathetic, incarcerated brother.

Charlize Theron plays Libby Day, a character who must have some remarkable significance for the actress, given Theron's personal history and South Africa's family and farm murder heritage. Not only does she share an eye witness account of a family tragedy with Day, but she's also choosing to revisit her past in a role decades later. The correlations and circumstances make this Oscar-calibre actress perfect for the imperfect role and she delivers a fine performance as a tomboy loner with shades from her turn in Young Adult.

Unfortunately, much of Theron's performance is hidden by her character's reluctance to reveal her face. Her state-of-mind is conveyed by her body language, but with a shadow looming over her face, we miss some of the nuances as Day is kept in the dark. Theron leads a stellar up-and-coming cast in Nicholas Hoult, Christina Hendricks and Chloe Grace Moretz, who make do with small supporting roles.

While Dark Places functions as a character study, we're forced to rely on the photo negative and reflections in windows to get a clearer picture of Libby Day. As such, the crime story takes more of the weight, remaining aloof, dangerous and unpredictable as it moves from morbid pop culture curiousity back in time to the dark energy of the Occult as truths surface.

It's more of a crime drama than a thriller that builds with intrigue and atmosphere as new shiny trinkets come to light. While mostly entertaining with its true crime swagger, it becomes rather underwhelming with an ending that feels like the bloody carpet has been pulled from under your feet. Theron anchors proceedings, but by keeping the audience at a distance, we never truly cross the threshold. You're left wondering how a director like David Fincher would have handled it.

The bottom line: Curious

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