The Box Reviews
Bewildered at first! The bewildered weirdness kicks but and for was very puzzling. Sometimes I felt like "what the heck is going on?" And then I would settle down to see the strange results produced from the unexplainable theories that in the end all made sense!
Very "Twilight Zone"-ish and according to what I know, the original story "Button, Button!" was written by "Richard Matherson" who wrote "I Am Legend" and several "Twilight Zone" episodes which explains the psychological wrenching.
A well done film adaptation for a short-story! Thinking that this team was able to produce a full length movie out of a short-story article from a "Playboy" magazine from 1970... Impressive.
As far as the basic plot goes, this is probably the most straightforward thing Kelly has done, and as a result is also his most accessible film. It's an adaptation of a short story which in turn spawned an episode of the 80s era Twilight Zone. I can't remember if I've read the story, but I've seen the TV episode.
Now, given that the Short story is just that, and that the episode was between 30-60 mins. ( I can't remember), it's obvious that this film is loaded with extra materiial given that it's run time is just under two hours. I refuse to call this extra stuff "filler" though, as that term connotates negativity. The extra stuff here is cool. I don't quite get it all, but I get the general idea.
The beginning and end are straightforward morality tales while the middle veers off into its own weird thing, but hey, this is a Richard Kelly film, and while watching it, it's undeniable that he and not someone else is behind it all. This is a sci-fi thriller, and not actually a horror film, but this is really creepy if not down right scary at times. There is a really great sense of tone, mood, and atmosphere created here that makes even ordinary and mundane places and things unsettling. Because of that, the stuff that's supposed to be creepy is now even moreso.
Kelly should be applauded for knowing these things. It's part of why the film works. He also knows what aesthetic choices (as far as leneral looks, sets, and art direction) look groovy too. I was really digging the 70s decorum. The music is great too. don't listen to Arcade Fire, but some of their members did the music, and it rocks. It's very Bernard Herrmann-esque, which is very high praise and only benefits the film more.
I'm not sure why people didn't get into this all that much. Perhaps Southland Tales had a role to play? Or Maybe just How Kelly's films are in general? That's unfortunate though. I admit that I was a bit hesitant to see this, but I came out very surprised and pleased. Even though it is weird and creepy and out there, this has a high amount of mainstream appeal, so go give it a shot.
Oh yeah, the acting's fantastic too. Marsden is good, Diaz gives a strong performance, and Langella is the man. I'm kind of thinking that in limited circles, his character will become a cult favorite in years to come. He's creepy as shit, has a great and unforgettable look (gotta love the FX), and is just very enjoyable to watch.
I really liked this after one viewing. I plan on seeing it again and am kind of thinking that I may end up loving it. Congrats Kelly, even though I never fully gave up on you, you have restored what faith I had lost (and I wouldn't call myself a fanboy to begin with, either).
The acting by Cameron Diaz and James Marsden isn't exactly top notch either. Cameron has the same clueless look that Kristen Stewart has throughout Twilight, and I keep thinking Marsden is going to shoot lasers from his eyes.
Richard Kelly covers a lot of ground. He touches upon a box that will reward those who push a button while killing someone they wouldn't know simultaneously, aliens, portals, the afterlife, and a town filled with people who seem to be in on the mystery. Juggling all of these concepts into one movie is sure to leave plot holes, story problems, and things that are just too much to accept. I admire the ambition, but there was very little in the way of suspense, just confusion that did not intrigue or interest me.
Norma (Cameron Diaz) & Arthur Lewis (James Marsden) are a happily married couple who are having some financial difficulties. Out of the blue, they are contacted by a mysterious stranger named Arlington Steward (Frank Langella). Mr. Steward delivers a box to their house and makes them a bleak, but very tempting offer. They are given a choice to push the button on the box and receive $1 million, however, by doing so, somebody somewhere will die.
This film received quite a lot of criticism and wasn't very successful upon it's release, which is a shame really, as it does have several positive things going for it. First of all, it poses the type of moral question that everybody will find it hard to ignore and follows through with the consequences of making such a decision. Richard Kelly's direction is refreshingly different also. He throws in all sorts of unconventional and unexpected 'Lynchian' touches like the main character missing part of her foot and another missing part of his face. Strange bell ringing Santa's standing in the middle of the road, nose bleeding zombies and all this with the air of a NASA conspiracy hanging over it. All very strange indeed, with little to no explanation for some of it. The film also looks wonderful, brilliantly capturing the 1970's era and style and the three lead performances are excellent. However, with all this unexplained strangeness you start to wonder whether Kelly is taking it all a bit too far and quite frankly, not really caring if we understand the whole thing. Which is a big ask, considering the film is just short of two hours and demands a level of commitment.
A very bizarre, (slight) misfire but interesting nonetheless and it definitely has a lasting effect due to some well structured creepiness.