Saturday, August 8, 2015

Dark Places

Is it a super episode of “Cold Case”?

     Gillian Flynn’s novel Dark Places (2009) moved with inexorable dread as it cut between the last day in the life of a family about to be killed and the two surviving children (one in prison for the murders) trying to come to terms with each other over twenty-five years later.  When I heard it was going to be a movie starring Amy Adams, I thought ‘uh oh’ because she seemed too sweet.  I know she was lauded for American Hustle (2013) playing a con artist, but she was miscast, though a terrific dancer.  When Charlize Theron was cast instead, I thought, ‘Yes, she’s the one.’

Charlize Theron as Libby Day
     Theron takes off in the role of Libby because she projects such an edge of danger.  For viewers that don’t know the book, they might believe Libby killed the family from Theron’s intermittent spiky sullenness.  ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ is generally stated to support primacy of the visual – especially the photograph – over the written word.  However, a thousand words can build up a sense of texture through description and telling details that a camera cannot.  
Chloë Grace Moritz
as the badass girlfriend
Even though the production design captures the rural 1980s, it cannot discuss how many smaller farms were driven out of business because of changes in federal policy, which is the primary reason behind the ensuing tragedy.  A viewer cannot re-read a sentence, line of dialogue, or scene the way a reader can; therefore, a viewer cannot decide what is important or intriguing, but has to rely on the editor and director.

    Neil didn’t feel that the suspense built and he was right.  We’re looking for a solution and when we get it in the movie, there was a sense of completion, but not the devastation over the waste for the main characters that there was in the book.  (And yes, it’s a book especially worth reading).  Gilles Paquet-Brenner edits the book well into a workable screenplay and has cast it very well.  It’s competent, but it doesn’t buzz like David Fincher’s Gone Girl.  Instead, the theme of loss for people affected by a murder over decades matches CBS’s Cold Case (2003 – 2010), though it didn’t always capture the specific historical eras as well as this.

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