Gillian Flynn became a household name after the massive success of her books Gone Girl and Sharp Objects, which were then adapted into critically and commercially successful film and TV ventures, respectively. As a teenager in the early 2010s, Gillian Flynn’s dark characters and twisted plotlines drew me in like no other author at the time. If you had asked me who my favorite author was, then it would have assuredly been Flynn.
Until I read Dark Places, that is.
Dark Places is undoubtedly the most grim of Flynn’s creations, with the plot centering on Libby Day, the sole survivor of a Satanic massacre inflicted upon her entire family by her brother Ben. Libby spends her entire adult life trying to forget the massacre ever happened. Quite frankly, she is not the most likable protagonist. While this is common in Flynn’s work (Nick Dunne is not a winner, either), it is extremely hard to root for her.
Disappointment at the Box Office
Libby is a depressed, lonely, and broke middle-aged woman when, twenty-five years after the massacre, she encounters a mother-daughter team of true crime detectives who believe her brother Ben is innocent. She only begins looking into the murder for the money they offer her and seems detached throughout the entire process. Despite the story’s potential, Dark Places fails to deliver the drama and character development of Flynn’s other novels.
The plot of Dark Places, however, is enough to intrigue anyone into reading or watching it and was made especially enticing by casting Charlize Theron for the 2015 film version. Despite the stellar cast, the movie still fell short of its expectations, garnering just 23% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and losing nearly half of its budget at the box office. In contrast, the 2014 movie version of Gone Girl was able to garner 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and a leading actress Oscar nomination for Rosamund Pike in her role as antagonist Amy Dunne.
The massive failure of the 2015 movie version of Dark Places has not deterred HBO from trying its hand at turning Flynn’s book into an upcoming multi-part series, as it did with Sharp Objects in 2018. Sharp Objects, which starred Amy Adams, was an enormous success, garnering eight Emmy Award nominations.
The Frequency of Second Chances
The real question to consider with the initiation of another Dark Places adaptation is if the showrunners can salvage any negative story development that may have occurred in the book — such as subpar characters — and create a show that holds the viewers’ attention.
Many book-to-movie adaptations are being redone, with Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians remake on Disney+ being a prime example of how the vision of the filmmaker can make or break a great book adaptation. The 2010 version of Percy Jackson fell so short that Disney had to go back again just thirteen years later to appease fans of the books. HBO has also confirmed a remake of the Harry Potter books into a multi-part series. For many fans of the Harry Potter series, this is extremely welcome news, considering that despite the film’s overall success, so much of the magnificent storytelling was left out due to time constraints.
It will be a while before we find out if HBO can salvage Flynn’s least-prestigious work and make it into something as successful as the other two screen adaptations of her books. Right now, there is no date set for the release of the show. For now, fans simply have to wait and wonder, hoping that the Dark Places show will be more compelling than the book and movie that came before it.
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