Tuesday, November 10, 2009

THE BOX (2009)

Written & Directed by Richard Kelly

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. November 8, 2009, 8:15PM

"The Box",  Richard Kelly's first film since his poorly received 2003 sci-fi, comedy action-thriller, "Southland Tales", proves to be a convoluted and incoherent disaster of a psychological thriller. This is too bad because I am a huge fan of the writer/director's offbeat debut, "Donnie Darko" from 2001. This film starts off fairly interesting but unfortunately deteriorates in to a confusing and muddled mess.

This story is set in 1976 near the Christmas holiday. We meet Norma, (Cameron Diaz) a school teacher and her husband, Arthur Lewis, (James Marsden) who works for NASA. They are a nice suburban couple who are awakened early one morning by a knock at their door. When they get to the door, no one is there but a package is left behind.

They open the package and find a wooden box with a button in the middle inside. There is also a note that informs them that a "Mr. Steward" will pay them a visit later this day.  They find the whole situation odd but continue on with their day and getting their son, Walter ready for school.

Norma is informed that she will be losing her job at the end of school year while Arthur learns that he has been passed over for the astronaut program despite doing well on tests and glowing recommendations. Money has been an on-going problem for the family and now they will really be struggling financially.

Later, Mr. Steward (Frank Langella) arrives at the home. Norma is there alone to greet him and shocked to see that part of his jaw is missing from his face. The disfigured man is there to present the couple with strange offer. He will give them one million dollars if they push the button on the box but in exchange someone that they do not know will have to die. He opens up a suitcase to show her the money and gives her a one hundred dollar bill in good faith. He suggests that she discuss the matter with her husband and he will return the next day for their answer.

Norma and Arthur discuss the proposition and they don't know what to make of it. They don't know if this is a joke and if it's real, they could certainly use the money. They go back and forth on this and in the morning, Norma just decides to push the button. Later that day as promised, the money is delivered to them and also as promised, a person is killed. I guess Norma and Arthur were not familiar with the expression, "If it sounds to be good to be true. . ."

At this point, things start to go downhill quickly for Norma and Arthur, as well as the film. We meet people who are apparent accomplices to Mr. Steward who try to warn the couple about their fate and develop unexplained nose bleeds for their trouble. Norma and Arthur arrive separately at the same time at a library to investigate Mr. Steward's activities and Arthur is followed by an army of strange people. There is also some nonsense involving communicating with aliens, life on Mars and putting the human race to the test. I'm not exactly sure what it all means or suppose to mean but by the end , I completely gave up trying to figure it all out.

I was impressed by Ms Diaz's performance in this film. She has grown as an actress over the years and I think in the right hands and the right part, we could possibly see her one day walking up to accept an Oscar. Mr. Marsden is not given much to do but he does the best he can and Mr. Langella does creepy very well.

I wish someone had been involved in having Mr. Kelly focus on creating an cohesive plot because they are a lot of good ideas floating throughout "The Box" but they just do not work as a whole. A very big disappointment.