Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Button Button Whose Got The Button

As the number one Richard Kelly apologist since 2006. It's my duty to inform you that The Box. No wait. Comeback.

Believe it or not the box is not as bad as you've heard. It's not a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination. But it's an intelligent adult piece of science fiction with some great scenes and a mesmerizing central performance by Langella. Nothing would make me happier then to see it get a huge on Video success. I would also like a pony.

Seriously for all its flaws The Box feels like the work of a growing filmmaker. One who has truly taken the time to learn from his mistakes and evolve. And given its performance it might be awhile until Kelly gets a chance to. Man when Darko first came out and everyone started calling him the new Gilliam I bet he had no idea how scarily prophetic it would end up being.

Anyway give The Box a chance and it just might surprise you.

EDIT: I wrote another take on The Box for my column. Rather then risk open revolt by posting it as its own entity I thought I'd add it onto this one.

The Box was Richard Kelly’s bid for mainstream acceptance. Proof after the catastrophe that was Southland Tales that Kelly could play nice for the mainstream and create a movie that everyone could like. It didn’t work out that well. Instead of a safe by the numbers studio project The Box is a trippy, Sartre reverencing, expectation juking, mind fuck, that doubles as a serious morality play.

Just the sort of thing most people are looking for while they munch popcorn. Far from proving The director of Donnie Darko a safe bet, The Box flopped in theaters, and did only marginally well with critics. Luckily for Kelly, The Box is showing every sign of generating the kind of cult audience that saved Kelly’s career after Darko underperformed. With the T-Shirt ready iconic performance by Frank Langella (AKA I’m not Robert Loggia) score by Arcade Fire, and heady mix of style, ideas, and lunacy, its hard to imagine it doing otherwise.

The Box as it’s box office figures proved, isn’t for everyone, but those who it does connect with are going to be feeling the rarified jolt of cinematic ambrosia. Like The Sparse Moody Score by Arcade Fire, The Box at first appears to be doing very little, but reveals itself to be a rich, rewarding experience with further study. It’s one of those rare films that proves itself to be deeper and richer every time I watch it.

It opens with an upper middle class family in 1970’s Virginia, who find themselves on the receiving end of a very odd offer, given to them by the horrifically scared Mr. Seward, played by Frank Langella, with a mesmerizing polite malignance that’s worth the price of admission alone. Press the button that he has given to them, and someone “Who They Don’t Know” will die and they will receive a million dollars “Tax Free” (And remember these are seventies dollars) don’t press the button and well, in that case they get a pat on the back for being such good sports about the whole thing. Inevitably they press the button, and find the tables turned on them by a turn of phrase too good to spoil. Then things really get weird.

The rest of The Box is as heady, bizarre, and exhilarating as any of Kelly’s other’s films as our couple has to face Satanic Santas, The horrors of the Public Library, and K-Billy’s super sounds of the seventies. Though those put off by the purposeful obtuseness of Darko and Southland Tales should give this one a shot. Though Kelly isn’t interested in making it easy for you, all the pieces to solve the puzzle ARE here, and if you pay attention you can figure it out. I hope The Box finds the audience it deserves on DVD. Films as audacious as this deserve to be valued. So do filmmakers. I hope Kelly doesn’t find himself in director’s jail for too long over this. For all his flaws as a filmmaker (and as anyone whose watched Domino and Southland Tales knows, he has many) I can’t help but find movie theaters a more interesting place when a Kelly film is playing there.


Elwood Jones said...

Reading your post I guess it further proves, what a die hard fan I am of Richard Kelly's work, especially seeing how I frequently rank "Southland Tales" amongst my favourite films.

So far I think his only real stumble was releasing a directors cut of "Donnie Darko" which pretty much undid all the mystique of the original cut.
Guess this is the beauty of the DVD market, as most films now look to claim back money when they find thier audience on DVD, which also probebly explains why we also have such a boom in stright to DVD titles over the last few years.

Ryan McNeil said...

I saw this movie for free and still felt ripped off.

Unknown said...

I too dig Kelly's work and really loved SOUTHLAND TALES. My dream some day is that Criterion will release a special edition with the theatrical cut AND the Cannes cut.

I have to say that I am intrigued to see THE BOX. I like the premise and the trailers look good. I was not surprised that critics went after it, though, which is a shame.

Bryce Wilson said...

@ EJ: Yeah The Director's cut was really no good at all.

@ MH: Hah I was waiting for you to show Hatter. "My Spidey sense is tingling! Somone saying something nice about The Box!" lol. First movie we discussed.

@ JD: I'd love to see it for the Garoffolo and Smith stuff alone.

AE said...

I really enjoyed this movie, which surprised me because I hated Donnie Darko (too mannered, and the satire was too broad). I loved the relationship triangle between Frank Langella and both members of the married couple, and I loved that the couple trapped themselves into something they could never escape. Agreed though that you never really know *why* they are doing all that stuff in the middle... more deliberately-unanswered questions than a "Lost" episode. I'm not sure I'd recommend this movie or even say it was particularly good. But I loved watching it. Movies are weird like that.