Wednesday 2 March 2016

Review: Dark Places

Year: 2015 (U.K DVD release 2016)
Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Screenplay: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Starring: Charlize Theron, Christina Hendricks, Nicholas Hoult, and Chloƫ Grace Moretz.

Gillian Flynn’s bestselling book; Gone Girl, features the now infamous cool girl speech, in which a character rants about a certain mode of femininity which they feel is prevalent in our culture. Type in Cool Girl speech into google, and you won’t only find the usual YouTube video clips of the cool girl scene, but also whole articles surrounding the moment. Whether or not you agree with the polemic is one thing, but the scene in the film (as well as the quote in the book), is an effective piece of writing. For some it brings around an element of truth. I know women who I feel possibly fit into the cool girl classification. Many of the articles were quick to dissect and/or debase the idea. It’s the type of titillating rant that could have men nodding or women scowling. The main thing is, it sparks a conversation.

I find it quite doubtful that Dark Places, based on another Flynn book, will do anything similar. Slipping out quietly on home release, the marketing blurbs on the Blu-ray cover, were quick to remind folk of the authorial connection. Unfortunately, Dark Places, unlike Gone Girl, holds little that would heat up the spare time at the water cooler.

Themes which cropped up in Gone Girl, also appear here. Class conflict, media manipulation, financial and marital strife. This is all wrapped up in a similar airport novel package. Jam packed with talk of Satanism, entitled amateur detectives and murder, which I’m quite sure this all sounds interesting on the page.

Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner decides that the best thing to do is play everything straight, creating a serviceable yet strangely bland affair equipped with a finale that only had me point out the ludicrous nature of it all as opposed to have it draw me in. On paper, both Gone Girl and Dark Places are potboilers you feel work on a heightened sense of delirium. This is something Fincher understands with his OTT presentation of Gone Girl. It’s a sandbox of absurdity. A hark back to the silly 90’s thrillers, but one with engaging slants on modern culture.  Dark Places may not be able to go whole hog on the macabre, but the film is so solemn, that it did little to get me caught up in the madness. Instead, I found myself counting the plot revelations, nodding at the workmanlike performances from the top tier cast and wondering if the early part of the score was influenced by the film Shallow Grave (1994).

 Dark Places may keep some late night enthusiasts and hardcore Flynn fans occupied, but for those who are interested in the type of themes that Dark Places glosses over, may I suggest the additive and compelling Making a Murderer (2015) via Netflix. A documentary which may be fact based, but is more engaging that this fiction.