Dark Places (2015 film)
|Directed by||Gilles Paquet-Brenner|
|Screenplay by||Gilles Paquet-Brenner|
|Based on||Dark Places|
by Gillian Flynn
|Box office||$5.1 million|
Dark Places is a 2015 neo-noir mystery film directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner. The screenplay, by Paquet-Brenner, is based on Gillian Flynn's 2009 novel of the same name. It stars Charlize Theron, Christina Hendricks, Nicholas Hoult, and Chloë Grace Moretz.
In 1985 in rural Kinnakee, Kansas, 8-year old Libby Day is the sole survivor of the massacre of her mother and two older sisters. Responding to the police's leading questions, she tells them that her brother teenage Ben (Sheridan) committed the crime. In the present day, Libby (Theron) has made a living from donations sent by strangers to the little girl they saw on the news. With donations drying up, she is hard up for cash when she is approached by Lyle Wirth (Hoult) to make a personal appearance at his "True Crime" club. She reluctantly agrees to go and answer questions about her past for $700.
Back in 1985, Ben comes to the breakfast table with his hair dyed black. He has a tense relationship with his mother Patty (Hendricks) and his eldest sister Michelle, who taunts Ben about being a loner and rumors about him at school. Ben hangs out with a Satanist bookie named Trey Teepano. Meanwhile, their mother Patty is told that her farm is being foreclosed on, despite her best efforts to stay afloat.
At Wirth's club, Libby learns that most of the members believe her brother Ben is innocent. His conviction was based on Libby's testimony. Still believing that Ben is guilty, Libby nevertheless agrees to work with the club in return for much needed money. Urged by Wirth to visit Ben in prison, Libby's curiosity about what motivated him to kill their family prods her to keep researching the case.
Prior to the murders, Ben was planning to run away with his pregnant girlfriend Diondra (Moretz). Meanwhile, some young girls have accused Ben of molesting them. When Patty is informed of the charges, she visits the home of the chief accuser Krissi Cates, whose father is irate and looking to harm Ben. Patty is distraught by the accusations and feels that she has failed her kids. Back home, their estranged, alcoholic father Runner (Bridgers) is waiting for Patty. He needs money to skip town because he owes Trey the bookie more than he can repay. He becomes violent and abusive towards Patty. He attempts to rip her heirloom ruby necklace off her neck but, unable to do so, he beats her and steals money from her wallet.
In the present, Libby tracks down her father Runner to an abandoned factory where he lives with other homeless addicts. He tells her about Diondra's pregnancy, which Libby was not aware of. Libby also locates Krissi Cates (Matteo), who eventually confesses that she made up the molestation accusations against Ben.
Meanwhile in 1985, Patty is informed by a friend with the Farmers Home Administration that he might have a solution to her problems. She meets with a stranger in the middle of the night at a park, who says that he can help her. It later turns out that he is Calvin Diehl, a serial killer known as the Angel of Debt, who murders people so that their families can collect on their life insurance policies. Unable to see any other solution to her financial problems, Patty goes home and hides some money for Diehl.
At the same time, Diondra finds out about the accusations against Ben and convinces him to flee with her immediately. They go to Ben's house to steal some money. Michelle overhears them talking and threatens to tell on them. Diondra impulsively attacks Michelle and starts to choke her. Diehl has also entered the house. In the hallway, he stabs Patty. When her middle daughter Debby rushes out of the bedroom to get help for Michelle, Diehl grabs the family shotgun and kills the young girl. The shot distracts Ben from his effort to protect Michelle. While he goes to see what has happened, Diondra strangles Michelle.
In the present, Libby finds Diondra and Crystal, the daughter she had with Ben. Libby then finds her mother's ruby necklace in Diondra's bathroom and realizes she is in danger. Crystal attacks her, but she manages to escape the house. She finds out about Diehl's involvement from Wirth, whose club has been working on the Angel of Debt case. Libby visits Ben again in prison, and they apologize to each other. She realizes he was trying to protect his unborn daughter by taking the rap for the murder of his mother and his sisters. A news report confirms that Diondra has been arrested. Libby returns to look at the family farm where she grew up. Ben is exonerated and released from prison while Libby states that she doesn't intend to press charges against Crystal, who is yet to be found, as she understands her actions.
- Charlize Theron as Libby Day
- Sterling Jerins as young Libby Day
- Christina Hendricks as Patty Day
- Nicholas Hoult as Lyle Wirth
- Andrea Roth as Diondra Wertzner
- Corey Stoll as Ben Day
- Sean Bridgers as Runner Day
- Drea de Matteo as Krissi Cates
- Addy Miller as young Krissi Cates
- Shannon Kook as young Trey Teepano
- Richard Gunn as Lou Cates
- Dan Hewitt Owens as Robert
- Glenn Morshower as Jim Jeffreys
- Denise Williamson as Crystal
- Jeff Chase as Calvin Diehl
Dark Places was released in France on April 8, 2015. In November 2014, it was announced A24 and DirecTV Cinema had acquired rights to the film. The film began airing on DirecTV Cinema on June 18, 2015, and was released in limited release and through video on demand on August 7, 2015.
The film grossed a meager total of $208,588 in the United States from 151 venues over the course of two weeks. Overseas, the film earned $4,882,264 for a worldwide total of $5,090,852.
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On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 23% based on 82 reviews, with an average rating of 4.7/10. The site's critics' consensus reads: "Dark Places has a strong cast and bestselling source material, but none of it adds up to more than a mediocre thriller that gets tripped up on its own twists." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigns a score of 39 out of 100 based on 19 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Peter Debruge of Variety wrote: "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." However, he called the film as a whole "a relative disappointment."
Most of the reviews were mixed. David Lewis wrote in The San Francisco Chronicle, "Dark Places isn’t a disaster of a film. Instead, it’s the definition of average, and we wish it could have taken us to some more interesting places." Katie Walsh wrote in The Chicago Tribune, "It feels like the film doesn't want to commit to either pure camp or stoic darkness, fluctuating between the two...The twists, turns and reveals in the mystery sustain interest in the film, which hops between present day to the day of the murders, interspersed with Libby's flashback of fleeing the house that night. But despite all the shocking developments, the resolution is rushed, and therefore farfetched and confounding." Writing in the Toronto Star, Bruce DeMara called the film "a reasonably suspenseful tale populated by a slew of sordid players, bringing an outsider’s view to the seamier side of middle America that actually comes across as both gritty and fresh." Chris Nashawaty's review in Entertainment Weekly stated, " It isn’t terrible, exactly, but disappointing considering its cast and source. Instead, Dark Places just becomes an overstuffed, low-simmer potboiler with too many improbable detours and overly convenient twists." The Observer critic Mark Kermode wrote, "Gilles Paquet-Brenner invests the split-time action with some brooding menace and the cinematographer, Barry Ackroyd, does his best to lend some urgency, even as things spiral from suspense into outright silliness." Bilge Ebiri wrote in Vulture.com, "There’s nothing particularly wrong with Dark Places: It’s cleanly directed, occasionally atmospheric, and mostly well acted. But the film is also curiously lifeless, crammed tightly as it is with plot and structure — which becomes increasingly tedious. Peter Bradshaw's review in The Guardian called the film a "middling screen adaptation. There are moments of macabre horror here, and interesting nods to Capote’s In Cold Blood, as well as America’s satanic abuse scare and the Robin Hood Hills case."
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