A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dark Places -- a thriller based on a novel by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn -- will no doubt be unfavorably compared to the previous film adaptation of Flynn's work. But it's still worth seeing if you can handle the story's multiple murders, references to child molestation, animal killings, blood spatters, fighting, chasing, etc. Language includes several uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and more; teens have sex (no graphic nudity), a scene takes place in a strip club, and there are other sexual references. Teens are also seen smoking pot and drinking, and adults smoke cigarettes, drink, and get drunk. One character is said to be a drug dealer. Despite all of this heavy material, the movie never feels too intense, and older, thoughtful teens should be fine.
What's the story?
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 remembered -- or guessed.
Is it any good?
Based on Gillian Flynn's novel, this thriller will no doubt pale in comparison to Gone Girl, but it has its own merits, namely a psychologically rich, complex storyline and fine performances. DARK PLACES' biggest asset is Theron; hiding under a baseball cap and an ill-fitting coat, her Libby is angrily guarded and in need of help. She finds humanity within her painful shell. And Theron inspires a fine cast of supporters -- ranging from Hoult and Chloe Grace Moretz to Sheridan -- do to equally fine work.
Writer/director Gilles Paquet-Brenner adapts 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 you 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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Do you think the main character is a role model? A strong woman?
- In theaters: August 7, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: October 6, 2015
- Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Chloe Grace Moretz
- Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some disturbing violence, language, drug use and sexual content
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.