Starring: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella
Director: Richard Kelly
Writer(s): Richard Kelly, Richard Matheson (Novel)
Cinematography: Steven B. Poster
Original Score: Win Butler, Regine Chassagne, Owen Pallett
Running Time: 115 Mins.
Every so often a film comes along with a premise that is thoroughly intriguing, one that raises a strong narrative and one that could potentially set the audience thinking, surely one of the highest commendation I would give for a good film. Richard Kelly’s follow up to the highly (over) rated Donnie Darko, and the (quite rightly) much maligned Southland Tales. Given that the man has those two pretentiously messy films films on his repertoire means it will come as no surprise that The Box sadly does not have a strong narrative, is not intriguing, but it DID get me thinking, thinking as to how on earth this mess was ever made.
In its favour The Box DOES have a great initial premise (from novel Button, Button by Matheson), couple get given the titular box, are approached by a strange man who claims that the button located inside the box unit can be pushed, should said couple push the button they will receive a million dollars, but *natch* someone somewhere whom the couple does not know will die. This is a strong basis for a quite simple tale of morals and the idea of choice and sacrifice, and selfishness, one line touches on the dilemma as the wife ponders to her husband whether she really truly knows him, basically asking what it means to know someone. This in itself raises some great ideas and leads, instead though it is a throwaway line in a plot that both makes little to no sense and meanders through so many different idea’s and concept’s I couldnt decide whether I was more bored or confused.
As you may have noticed I have yet to mention any of the cast, and with good reason, none of them register, Cameron Diaz finds her name above the title but is sorely miscast looking in pain througout while struggling with not just acting as confused as the audience will feel but also turning in a dire southern accent. As her husband James Marsden fares better, in that he has the ability to pull of a more complex role, but as with Diaz he spends most of the film looking confused (or bemused?). The only other person to register is Frank Langella. memorable only fro the fact that half of his face is missing (Two-Face style), and credit where credits due, the effects are good (I’m clutching at straws here to find any merit!). Though Langella doesn’t look half as confused as the rest of the cast he doesn’t ham it up enough to register as the villainous role he is meant to be fitting, overacting isn’t always a good thing but in a film this dreary it would have pepped it up a little.
As the “narrative” progresses more and more red herrings are dropped, this is the kind of premise that M. Night Shyamalan would have thrived upon giving us a great denouement as is his ire, but with Kelly, whose trademark seems to be throw everything at the script and hope some of it sticks it falls apart and can never regroup. I desperately wanted to walk out at the point where Marsden has to enter a doorway of water and ends up splashing down on top of his wife in bed but I couldn’t help but wonder if Kelly had an explaination for all the incomprehensible waffle, alas he didn’t and as with this years other awful film Knowing aliens are thrown into the mix, oh and a bit of God too for good measure.
I could continue to comment that the music cues are totally misjudged as is the score, the setting is largely pointless (why the 70’s?) and any sense of pace is nonexistent but all of that becomes rather redundant when its attached to a narrative of such an inept and incoherent mess that squanders a potentially intriguing idea. After this I’d rather go back and re watch Knowing, yes it is that bad!
The Box is a strong contender for worst film of the year, quite simply an incomprehensible mess with nothing to say, made all the more annoying given the strong idea that lies at the start.