Monday, April 8, 2019

Lights Out

On the pages of George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones series, Margaery Tyrell isn't much of a presence. She never gets a point of view chapter, and therefore remains a passive pawn in other characters' games. One of the highlights of HBO's hugely successful adaptation has been (especially for readers of the books) how certain actors took lesser characters to new heights. 

As the ambitious, often-married lady of Highgarden, Natalie Dormer brought layers of intrigue to what could have been a mere body to move about Westeros. She showed even more skill in the uneven Picnic At Hanging Rock miniseries, overcoming some age miscasting to remain a fascinating presence. 

All this is to say that I'm rooting hard for Dormer's career. In Darkness marks her debut as a screenwriter, and while it's not quite the genre pic its marketing suggested, it showed up on Netflix and hence, this here blog. 

Quick Plot: Sofia is a blind pianist living one floor below Veronique, the flighty daughter of an infamous Serbian war criminal named Zoran Radic. When Veronique mysteriously tumbles out her third floor window, Sofia becomes a person of interest to everyone, from a friendly detective to Joely Richardson's icy brunette business manager and her puppy-eyed hunk of a brother (Daario Naharis Beta Tested Ed Skrein).

Between coded USB drives, poisoned champagne, and incredibly polished eye makeup applied without sight, In Darkness is an ambitious thriller that wants to do a LOT in its 100 minute run time. Written by Dormer and director Anthony Byrne, it piles mystery upon red herring upon mystery, with at least two major twists and very little room to breathe. 

It's far too much plot, and many of the details pile up in a way that adds to the ridiculousness of the story. Take, for example, the violinist busker who Sofia sees (well, not SEES, but you know) ever day on her afternoon coffee runs. At one point, she asks him to warn her if he sees a certain suspect by playing a lesser known composer. He does...sometime in the middle of the night. Does this accomplished, very clean-cut street musician LIVE outside this suburban coffee shop? Does he actually make cash at all hours? IS HE A ROBOT? 

You get the point. 

I almost wish In Darkness had leaned in harder to some its sillier elements. At times, there's a sense of campiness bubbling right under the super serious veneer, from Veronique's leopard print fashion to Detective Mills' inability to ever not eat. Maybe next time, Dormer and Byrne can embrace the fun. It would be better for all of us. 

High Points
Sofia has a little too much skill at everything to be a believable woman (and the less said about the final twist, the better) but as expected, Dormer remains an engaging presence onscreen who's impossible not to care about

Low Points
There is so much wrong with the final reveal that puts every action before it in question that I won't waste my time here listing it all. Just know that the ending is stupid and kind of makes the whole movie even stupider, despite it trying so hard not to be

Lessons Leaned
Nothing makes a dieting detective hungrier than a visit to the morgue

Grieving lets people see that you have feelings

45-year-old British size 10s don't do dairy

It pains me to say In Darkness is a deeply flawed film, but at the same time, I can fully admit that I didn't hate watching it. It's loaded with beautiful, well-dressed British people being mysteriously sexy amidst classical music, and that in itself has its charms. I wish the script had a little more finessing, but hey: I'd rather a film try too hard than phone it in. Even if I wish it had hung up the phone two minutes earlier.

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