Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Box

This is a new film starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, written & directed by Richard Kelly and based on a short story by Richard Matheson called "Button Button".

Richard Kelly's last successful outing was back in 2001 with Donnie Darko, which I enjoyed immensely. Richard got the gig thanks to his best mate Drew Barrymore, and since then hasn't done much with any success. I wont offer my opinion on this cosy set up for now, but he is currently in development with another new film called "Fade".

Here's the synopsis for The Box;
Norma and Arthur Lewis, a suburban couple with a young child, receive a simple wooden box as a gift, which bears fatal and irrevocable consequences. A mysterious stranger, Mr Arlington Stewart, delivers the message that the box promises to bestow upon its owner $1 million with the press of a button. But, pressing this button will simultaneously cause the death of another human being somewhere in the world; someone they don't know. With just 24 hours to have the box in their possession, Norma and Arthur find themselves in the cross-hairs of a startling moral dilemma and must face the true nature of their humanity.

A good concept but presented in a very muddled up fashion by the director. It's almost as if he lost his way half way through and became confused himself with what he had actually written! It makes what was an original simple story, into something way too complex, and tries to be too clever, only to end up utterly confusing with scenes that had no meaning in terms of advancing the story.

However, it is very stylistic, circa mid 1970's, and has a sci-fi theme and style to match the sci-fi theme and style of the era, which did work well. It very much borders on a B-movie look, and almost, but not in a good way, gets away with it. I'm also pretty convinced that the casting of Cameron Diaz was a box office decision, as her performance in this is awful. She is very wooden and comes across as if she has just emerged from acting school, if she ever went, detached entirely from the film. A lot of that I feel comes down to the pretty bad and clunky dialogue, and poor direction. Donnie Darko it aint.

Frank Langella however puts in a great performance as the disfigured Mr Arlington Stewart.

Great story premise, but the suspense became laughable I'm afraid. It also failed to wrap up and satisfy many loose story threads at the end, delivering only what we had worked out for ourselves half way through. It was going well, almost, right up to when Mr Arlington Stewart returns with the $1million. From there on it overdoses on 70's style science fiction, and slides at ever increasing speed down the ramp to oblivion.

You can see there's an attempt to delve into the human psyche, and it almost manages it, but almost is not good enough I'm afraid.

The answer is obvious in that we should not press the button on The Box, but I'd go a step further and say, save your money and don't bother even going to see it.

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