Movie Mom

Movie Mom


The Box

posted by Nell Minow
C
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some violence and disturbing images
Profanity:Some strong language
Nudity/Sex:None
Alcohol/Drugs:Social drinking, smoking
Violence/Scariness:Very disturbing images and situtations, characters injured and killed, guns, sci-fi peril and violence
Diversity Issues:None
Movie Release Date:November 6, 2009

I loved “Donnie Darko” and was eager to listen to the DVD commentary by writer/director Richard Kelly. But I had to turn it off after the first ten minutes. Kelly explained too much, and his explanations were so mundane they detracted from the film’s intriguing ambiguities. After the fascinating but incoherent “Southland Tales,” Kelly shifts back toward explaining too much in “The Box, based on a short story by Richard Matheson and its adaptation as an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”

Amid the meticulously re-created details of the 1976 Richmond, Virginia setting (harvest gold, maxi coats), a loving couple feeling some financial pressure are presented with a moral dilemma. Early one morning just before Christmas, a plain brown package is left on their doorstep with an elegant note informing them that Mr. Steward (Frank Langella) will be there at 5. Inside the package is a box with a red button covered by a locked glass dome.

Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur (James Marsden) go to work, where each receives bad news. Norma teaches English at a private school. Just after her class on Sartre’s “No Exit,” she is informed that the school will no longer be able to subsidize her son’s tuition, a severe financial blow. And Arthur, who (like Kelly’s father) designs lenses for a Mars explorer, learns that his application to the astronaut program has been turned down.

Norma is home alone when Mr. Steward arrives. His appearance is shocking. The lower left quarter of his face has been sheered off by some massive trauma, so devastating we can see not only sinew but teeth through what once was his cheek. His message is shocking, too. He gives Norma a key to open the glass dome and tells her that if she pushes the red button within 24 hours someone she does not know will die and she will receive one million dollars in cash, tax-free.

“Maybe it’s a baby,” says Arthur. “Maybe it’s a man on death row,” says Norma. Arthur, the engineer, takes the box apart. There’s nothing inside. Rationally, it seems impossible that the offer could be real. They go back and forth. And then, as much to end the agony of uncertainty as anything else, one of them impulsively hits it. And then things really go haywire in the lives of Arthur and Norma and pretty much in the movie, too.

Kelly knows how to create a mood of claustrophobic dread and how to create stunning images. Back in those pre-Google days, people had to do research in the stacks of a library, and Kelly makes those scenes look both retro and chilling. But there is nothing to approach the best moments in “Donnie Darko,” the Sparkle Motion dance number to “Notorious,” the motivational speaker, the controversy over the story taught in school, the riff on the Smurfs. Like the box with the button, it is enticing on the surface but inside it is empty.



  • jestrfyl

    The ads have intrigued me. I THOUGHT the story seemed familiar. That you gave it a B- is telling – I thought it might have been less of a work because they are pushing it so har. I appreciate your preview of this movie. It has convinced me that even though I would like to see, but I think I can wait for the DVD.

Previous Posts

Lucy
I always enjoy Luc Besson's stylish car chases and shootouts. I like his use of locations, his strong female characters, and unexpected flashes of sentiment in the midst of mayhem.  While

posted 6:00:51pm Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

And So It Goes
A second marriage is, as Samuel Johnson famously said, "The triumph of hope over experience." And as lyricist Sammy Cahn wrote in the song Bing Crosby sang in "H

posted 6:00:13pm Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

The Memory Book -- This Saturday on the Hallmark Channel
A budding, young photographer stumbles upon an old photo album chronicling the ideal romance of a happy couple. Intrigued by their love and unable to find her own “true love,” she sets out to find the couple and figure out if true love really exists.  The film stars Meghan Ory (“Once Upon a T

posted 8:00:57am Jul. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Michael Rossato-Bennett of "Alive Inside"
Michael Rossato-Bennett agreed to spend one day filming Dan Cohen's remarkable music therapy work with people struggling with dementia. He ended up spending three years there and the result is "Alive Inside," an extraordinary documentary about the power of music to reach the human spirit, even when

posted 3:58:01pm Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »

Movies' Greatest Mirror Scenes
Anne Billson has a great piece in The Telegraph on mirror scenes in movies, from the Marx brothers clowning in "Duck Soup" and the shootout in "The Lady from Shanghai" to Elizabeth Taylor scrawling on the mirror with lipstick in "Butterfield 8." [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKTT-sy0aLg

posted 8:00:51am Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.