Dark Places

“I first discovered Gillian Flynn soon after college. I was working two temp jobs and spent a couple hours total commuting every day. I was going thru books like crazy for those couple months. About once a week or so, when I’d stop in Harvard Square to switch buses, I’d stop at the bookstore. One day as I was making my usual lap around the fiction floor, I scanned the display tables and my eye was drawn to a book with a shiny raised razor on the cover. It was Flynn’s Sharp Objects. Intrigued, I picked it up and saw the endorsement from Stephen King. I almost didn’t even need to read the summary on the back before buying it.

Of course I loved it (and have since read it again). And of course when Gone Girl was released and making waves across pop culture I bought and read that one, and read it again after watching the movie. The only one missing was Dark Places. For some reason, I’d never gotten around to reading it.

Then when I was rereading Gone Girl, a friend started talking to me about Flynn and reminded me of Dark Places. Somewhere around then I’d heard about the movie adaptation starring Charlize Theron. Normally, I’d just wait to see the movie and then decide from there on the book, but I was too amped up on a dark high and read it soon thereafter.

The movie had a big (or at least normal) sized international release, but barely made a splash here. I had to seek out the trailer online, and it played one early morning show a day for almost a week and that was it. Thankfully, I kept an eye out for the DVD release, and once that happened I invited previously mentioned friend (and a book club buddy of hers) over to watch. After a run down the street for Dominoes and drinks, we settled in to finally watch.

For the most part, it’s a pretty faithful adaptation. All the storylines and twists and turns are there, and none of us were able to bring to mind anything blatantly missing. As to be expected, lots of details were left out and various threads weren’t really expanded on. What stood out most for me was the lack of detail around the Krissy Cates situation, and I wonder if someone who hadn’t read the book would have caught the full picture. My movie companions did comment that overall the film seemed less dark and twisted than the book. Maybe it’s just the nature of what can be shown on film vs what terrors your imagination could produce. For me, I thought that I’m just so jaded by the various messed up books and film I consume, that I didn’t really notice a spike in the dark feels on either end.

Oh right, story. Theron’s Libby Day is the survivor of a gruesome homicide in her childhood. Her mom and two sisters are violently killed, and her brother Ben is convicted of the crime, in part thanks to Libby’s testimony. Now we’re 30 years in the future, and Libby hasn’t made much of herself, living off donations and other funds related to her ordeal. But now, the money’s running out and in desperation she agrees to meet with the Kill Club, a group of true crime enthusiasts who collect murder memorabilia and work together to solve unsolved crimes. This club has a theory that maybe brother Ben is actually innocent, despite his lack of appeals or remorse.

What the movie really got right was the cast. Theron is so good at playing unlikeable characters that you still find incredibly interesting (see also Young Adult and Monster). Flynn loves to write unlovable and flawed yet strong females and pairing her work with this actress was a match made in heaven (or hell). I was particularly captivated by young Ben, Tye Sheridon. I’ve seen various publications and critics say that this kid is one to watch, and I absolutely agree. Very engaging and emotional performance. My movie gals were in agreement that for them, the best casting was Chloe Grace Moretz as young Ben’s gf, Diondra. She was manipulative and edgy and intense, in a way we haven’t really seen from her before. Other standouts include Christina Hendricks as Libby’s Mom, Corey Stoll as adult Ben, and Nicholas Hoult as Kill Club leader Lyle.

It’s really such a shame that this film passed so low under the radar. It’s absolutely worth checking out if you dug Gone Girl, esp for this remarkable cast”

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