Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Box.

The Box, 2009, directed and written by Richard Kelly.

"A small wooden box arrives on the doorstep of a married couple, who know that opening it will grant them a million dollars and kill someone they don't know." (IMDB).

I'm sure everyone probably knows this already, but this feature film is based on a short story that was originally made into a (new) Twilight Zone episode, Button, Button in the late eighties. I came across a pretty sweet blogger who has the original youtube posted, if you're interested in seeing it; Mare Winningham (Wendy, wearer of the scuba-suit support hose from Saint Elmo's Fire) stars as the wife.

The Jaded Viewer

So really, I didn't hate this as much as I thought I would. I very nearly had to get up and walk around when Norma (Cameron Diaz) first opened her mouth, number one, a southern accent, and number two, a teacher of philosophy? CAMERON DIAZ AND SARTRE? Please. And her playing a mother is probably the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen in my life; the woman from Throw Mama From The Train is more maternal than Cameron Diaz. She's very pretty though, prettier in this than probably anything else I've seen her in. And after a while the bad southern didn't bother me anymore, probably because it was disguising her normal grating voice, so it kind of ended up working, you know?

I also liked a lot of the mise en scene; this takes place in 1976, so there was plenty of patterned wallpaper, which (secretly) I love. Norma has a scene where she's putting hot rollers in her hair, fun!
The story is . . . interesting, I'll say that. And while I appreciate trying to incorporate something awesome (The TZ) into a bigger picture, drawing on events from the writer's own life, I think he really bit off more than he could chew with this whole thing.

1. The Box Story
2. The Planet Mars business
3. The disfigured man a link between them?

It got too ridiculous near the end. And they kept changing their own rules and adding more and more layers to something that was already a little far-fetched. I think the original story worked simply because less was more. The guy dropped off the box, they pushed the button, he picked it up, "AND NOW I'M GIVING IT TO SOMEONE YOU DON'T KNOW." The End. We didn't know how he knew they pushed it, we didn't know where the box came from and we didn't need to--it would have been unnecessary. I realize that in order to flesh a 20 minute short out into a full length film they needed to take some liberties in extending the plot a little, and I give him full marks for being interesting, I suppose, but I just didn't really dig it all that much.

P.S. A few good friends and I redid our own version of The Box for an eleventh grade English project; one ending had a Scooby-Doo "meddling kids" twist with a completely random character we made up by the name of June Monday. I was the box-deliverer, three friends were button-pushers, and one other was the unfortunate victim, decorating a Christmas tree singing a St. Nicholas Day song my German Teacher Mother taught us the year before. She ended up biting it right after "Lustig, lustig, tra-la-la-la-la." It was a good time.