Whew, I'm already exhausted by this goddamn challenge. I forgot how frustrating it was to try and do this damn thing while also managing to have a life and a job and a family. But I am chundering on ahead, damn it. I shall see this one through all the way, baby. ALL THE WAY!
So grab a decaf latte and check out out review of Richard Kelly's slowly paced but underrated "The Box."
The Box (2009): Directed by Richard Kelly. Starring Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella.
The Skinny: Based on an episode of "The Outer Limits," which in turn was based on aRichard Matheson story, whereupon a young couple receives a mysterious box from an even more mysterious stranger, their actions set in motion a Mobius Strip of intrigue that leads to the unraveling of their lives.
The Real Deal: Richard Kelly is an odd fucking bird. He came out of the box running with the brilliant and moving "Donnie Darko," which made a superstar out of one Mr. Jake Gyllenhall. Then he followed it up with another masterpiece that could be one of the most underrated science fiction movies of the last 20 years, "Southland Tales." (But more on that later.)
And then he smoked a lot of crack (presumably) and came up with this frustrating little number.
Problem is, the story behind "The Box" is relatively simple: your every action has some ramification, no matter how insignificant they appear. Yet Kelly mucks it all up by adding elements that seem to do nothing but frustrate the living hell out of you. You wind up spending time during the movie, thinking "Why does Cameron Diaz only have half a foot?" and "What happened to Frank Langella's face?" and "Why in hell would anyone cast that douchebag who played Cyclops in the first X-Men movie?" By focusing on those elements, which may or may not have anything to do with the movie (except that last bit), you wind up not paying attention to the rest of the damn thing. So by the end, you're all like, "Why is that kid locked in the bathroom?" and "Why does Cameron Diaz have a gun?" and "Why the fuck didn't they fire Cyclops before they got too deep into the production?"
Just like he did with the brilliant but equally frustrating "Southland Tales," Kelly tries to cram ten pounds of shit into what is roughly a three-pound bag. Unlike "Tales," however, I am not too sure that "The Box" will yield any great secrets with consecutive watchings. Hell, I've seen it twice and it put me to sleep both times. You can watch "Tales" a dozen times and walk away thinking something different each time. Try that with "The Box" and you'll put the makers of Ambien out of business.
Is It Worth My Time: Actually, yes. See it once, because it is filled with a certain intrigue that will keep you guessing, even if you don't really get the satisfaction of a neat little ending when it's all said and done. There is also a creeping, all-pervasive paranoia that permeates the movie (which, I believe, has something to do about the destruction of Mars. I ain't sure) that can give you the total willies. Also Kelly is a brilliant writer and has a certain visual style and pacing that at its best recalls some of Stanley Kubrick's finest moments. Just be prepared to a) suspend all disbelief and b) be frustrated by unanswered questions that likely won't be answered when you decide to watch it again. Just stay away from benzodiazepines when you do.
Best Scene Ever: The end moments, when all those bizarre elements that only so very slowly get explained to you as you go on, do deliver an emotionally taut conclusion that will set any parent's jaw on edge and have you looking warily across the sofa at the fucking animal you married, wondering if they would subject you to a similar fate. And you know they would, you evil bastard.
Quotable Stuff: "Your home is a box. Your car is a box on wheels. You drive to work in it. You drive home in it. You sit in your home, staring into a box. It erodes your soul, while the box that is your body inevitably withers... then dies. Where upon it is placed in the ultimate box, to slowly decompose."