Posts Tagged ‘Gillian Flynn’

Charlize Theron in "Dark Places"

Charlize Theron in “Dark

“DARK PLACES”  My rating: C+ 

113 minutes  | MPAA rating: R

“Gone Girl” is a hard act to follow.

That 2014 film — the first to be adapted from the three best-selling mystery novels by Kansas City native Gillian Flynn — offered a surfeit of riches: a gnarly yarn that nastily doubled back on itself, a scathing indictment of modern media and its consumers, and one of the most savage commentaries on marriage ever sold as popular entertainment.

Add to the mix masterful direction by David Fincher (who absolutely nailed the darkly hilarious misanthropy that characterizes Flynn’s best work) and stellar turns by Ben Affleck and Oscar-nominated Rosamund Pike, and you had a film that excelled on numerous levels.

By comparison “Dark Places,” adapted by writer/director Gilles Paquet-Brenner from an earlier Flynn novel, is fairly straightforward and one-dimensional.

The film captures Flynn’s gloomy outlook without offering the antidote of biting humor, and is so single-mindedly bent on building its narrative that there’s little room left to explore other ideas.

Most problematic, the plot relies on mind-boggling coincidence. This was bothersome on the printed page; it feels patently phony on the screen.

Libby Day (Charlize Theron) is an antisocial loner living in hoarder squalor in a Kansas City apartment (though set in Kansas and Missouri, “Dark Places” was filmed in Louisiana).

Nearly 30 years earlier she was the sole survivor of the notorious “Kansas prairie massacre” in which her mother and two older sisters were murdered on the family farm. Based largely on Libby‘s testimony, her teenage brother Ben was convicted and is now serving a life sentence.

For years the emotionally damaged and employment challenged Libby has gotten by on donations from a sympathetic/morbid public. But now her bank account is empty.

So when Lyle (Nicholas Hoult), president of a local society of true-crime groupies, offers to pay to have Libby’s brain picked by the membership, she reluctantly accepts — even though it means a bizarre confrontation with a Bob Berdella role player.


Read Full Post »

Rosamund Pike, Benn Affleck...in happier times

Rosamund Pike, Benn Affleck…in happier times

“GONE GIRL” My rating: A- (Opening wide on Oct. 3)

minutes | MPAA rating: R

The Affleck smirk — the way Ben Affleck, without even trying, looks like a high school halfback who has just initiated one of the new cheerleaders beneath the bleachers — is put to spectacular use in “Gone Girl.”

In David Fincher’s first-rate adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s dark suspense novel, Affleck plays a  handsome husband suspected of killing his beautiful wife, who has inexplicably gone missing. Here’s a poor jerk who — despite his best efforts to appear sympathetic in front of the cops, the cameras and the court of public opinion — can’t help coming off as insincere and smug.

Damn that Affleck smirk!

Or, rather, all hail the Affleck smirk, imbued as it is with ambivalence and leaving us uncertain about whether we should be cheering or booing the film’s protagonist.

That indecision could be problematical (moviegoers like being told what to think and feel), but “Gone Girl” nevertheless sucks us into the bitter (and bitterly funny) world fashioned by Fincher and Flynn (who adapted her own book for the screen — and in many respects actually improved upon the novel).

It’s a thoroughly satisfying mystery and suspense tale, sure, but “Gone Girl” also is one of the cinema’s most supremely cynical statements about the institution of marriage. It makes “The War of the Roses” seem warm and fuzzy.

And as if that wasn’t cake enough, we get for icing a hugely perceptive and bleakly comic depiction of the tabloid media, Internet opinion-making, and the astoundingly shallow fickleness of the American public.

There’s enough great stuff in here for three or four movies.  That Fincher (“The Social Network,” “Zodiac,” “Fight Club”) and Kansas City-reared Flynn keep it all in perfect balance is some sort of miracle.


Read Full Post »