“Dark Places” | Movie Review


Grade (B-)

A moody, slow paced mystery with solid performances.


Synopsis

A woman who survived the massacre of her family when she was eight-years old reluctantly decides to revisit the events that changed her life and soon she begins to uncover secrets from the horrific night thirty-years earlier.

My Take

While this was a little too slow at times it still resulted in an enjoyable mystery with some strong caster performances. Charlize Theron was excellent in the lead and she conveyed the pain of a woman that had experienced extremely tragic events in her youth. You could feel her emotion in many scenes and her character was easy to connect with.

I really enjoyed how this script covered what could happen to a person who dealt with a horrific event, where there were immense amounts of media coverage and mass outpourings of support. The script builds thought as to how a person could find their life crippled of motivation and simply living off the support from others without ever building a life of ones own. This aspect of the story-line was very intriguing and led to a vested interest in what would happen as the story closed.

In addition to Theron, the rest of the cast was great. Corey Stoll was excellent in his smaller role and his portrayal of Ben Day gave a nicely crafted split demeanor perfect for a strong mystery. At one moment you could not expect him to be the man he is accused of but during other moments you cannot be too sure and it added a fun curiosity to his role as he played well off the emotion his younger self created during the flashbacks.

 

The flashback sequences that filled in the blanks of what happened leading up to and just after the events that serve as the plots foundation were well placed. The scenes fit in well with the current day story-line and provided enough information at the right time to create a great balance between the two timelines. The younger cast members were all entertaining in their roles. Moretz and Sheridan were believable as a couple of misguided kids in love and completely naive to the real world. Christina Hendricks was very good in the role of the mother and despite being only a small part of the overall film, she was able to make a lasting impression with her emotionally charged performance.

Theron and Stoll were very good together onscreen. Their performances delivered the intended impact with their chemistry. The story built up the tension in their relationship and the resulting onscreen conversations between the two had me hanging on every word of their interesting chats that slowly begin to evolve. You could feel the big brother mentality of Stoll, and the anger and emotion of Theron was always highly visible resulting great cinema.

On the downside the middle of the film did seem to drag a lot. After finishing and seeing how the story turned out it was easy to see that the second-act could have sped things along much better with more expanded dialogue and longer interactions rather then going here, then there, and back again too often along the way.

I also found the crime solving club that served as the catalyst of the plot to be very weak and ultimately left open ended. It was a clear plot device and maybe intended to be forgotten as the story-line continued. The only reference was Hoult’s character who was written very thin with little motivation for his involvement, and funding other than plot convenience.

In the end “Dark Places” was not excellent but very compelling. It will not go down as a highly memorable mystery with a sluggish second-act, but it makes up for it with an entertaining third-act twist that makes the time worth it. If you are a fan of Theron, or a good mystery with a deliberately slow pace, you will enjoy this film for a one-time screening.


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