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With: Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Chloe Grace Moretz, Tye Sheridan, Sterling Jerins, Corey Stoll, Christina Hendricks, Drea de Matteo, Sean Bridgers, Andrea Roth
Written by: Gilles Paquet-Brenner, based on a novel by Gillian Flynn
Directed by: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
MPAA Rating: R for some disturbing violence, language, drug use and sexual content
Running Time: 113
Date: 08/07/2015

Dark Places (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Family Lies

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Coming from a novel by Gillian Flynn, this movie will no doubt pale in comparison to the ingenious Gone Girl, but it has its own merits, including a psychologically rich and complex storyline and fine performances.

Back in 1985, young Libby Day survived the murder of her mother and two sisters, and was pressured into naming her brother Ben (Tye Sheridan) as the killer. Thirty years later, money from good samaritans has dried up and Libby (Charlize Theron) is in need of funds.

She accepts an offer from Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult), to tell her story to the "Kill Club," a group of true crime fans who believe that the grown-up Ben (Corey Stoll) is innocent. Piecing together new information with old memories, Libby finds that the truth is a great deal more complex than she could have possibly guessed.

The biggest asset of Dark Places is Charlize Theron, hiding under a baseball cap and an ill-fitting coat, she's angrily guarded, and in need of help. She finds humanity within her painful shell. She inspires a fine cast of supporters, ranging from Nicholas Hoult and Chloe Grace Moretz to Tye Sheridan, do to equally fine work.

Writer/director Gilles Paquet-Brenner steps up from his previous work, adapting Flynn's novel in a way that seems dense and layered, but remarkably clear and exciting. While the ending does rely on some rather gratuitous suspense, the solution to the puzzle isn't quite as routine as one might expect, and the story's conclusion allows for complex emotions rather than a simple, happy wrap-up. It probably won't beat the book, but as a movie it works.

Lionsgate released a very fine Blu-ray edition of Dark Places, including a digital copy. The only extras are a studio-produced featurette, an interview with author Gillian Flynn, and a selection of trailers. I hope people can give this a second chance and judge it by its own merits; I think they'll find it's a solid thriller.

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