Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Box (2009)

     At 2009's Flashback Weekend (a Chicago area horror convention), I was afforded the opportunity to see The Box (2009) for free.  I declined the offer.  Much like with Dolph Lungren's I Come in Peace (1990) – which at the time was titled Dark Angel – it seemed like the offer didn't merit the time investment (because it would mean having to go somewhere else to go and see it).  The Box had the additional burden of having a director who had yet to put together a coherent film. 
     That trend continued.  Unlike his nearly unwatchable Southland Tales (2006), there is no sense of fun or enjoyment going on in which the audience can coach the experience.  Indeed, Richard Kelly seems to have aimed at delivering as much of a straight-ahead story as he can manage, and he does that for about thirty minutes.  Not incidentally, this is the best portion of the film.  Then, as he always does, Kelly descends into some sort of dream version of reality where connections don't matter and time is frangible.
     While most of the minor players are so poorly handled that it must have been by design (Kelly appears to be going for a creep factor that arises from how un-creepy his automatons are), the real problem lies with Cameron Diaz.  While I can honestly say that I have only seen her give one performance where she added rather than detracted from the final project, she is such a black hole here that I found myself wondering if her involvement (and the reason she wasn't replaced after shooting started) was because people believe that she will draw people to the theater.  If Frank Langella were not in the film, I never would have given it a chance.  I spent my time wondering how much better Langella's (and Marsden's for that matter) performance could have been if he weren't forced to interact with the human equivalent to a block of wood that is Diaz.
     There is no point to The Box.  Fine.  But I'm positive that Kelly thinks that he made one.  That is a problem.  He is like a writer who is sure he is a genius author, but is instead just scribbling just-above-nonsense into countless notebooks.  This film is an abject waste of time.  Not unpleasant, but very unrewarding.  And as intellectually immature in regards to a take on morality as I can imagine.

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