November 7, 2009

The Box - 2009

Director: Richard Kelly
Writers: Richard Kelly & Richard Matheson
Starring: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella

In this film, adapted from a short story called "Button, Button," a mysterious man (Langella) visits a financially ailing couple (Diaz & Marsden) with an offer: push a button and receive $1,000,000, but only after causing the death of a stranger. This is quite a bit of money for 1976 (when the film takes place), so it's quite an offer to a woman who needs to pay tuition and a man who just got denied his dream job. Naturally skeptical, they go so far as to take the (apparently empty) button apart before inevitably pressing it. The man returns, hands over the money, and takes the button from whence he came.

That's the bare bones of the first 45 minutes to an hour of the film, and it's easy to see how that would have worked as a Twilight Zone episode. But this is a Richard Kelly movie, as was Donnie Darko, so it's not going to be that simple.

Caveats: the Southern accents affected by the Virginian family around which the film revolves fade in and out for Marsden and his son, while Diaz's becomes annoying before too long. Several bloody noses and four missing toes make a couple scenes hard to watch. Above all else, the conversation about "what it means to truly know someone" can be spotted from a mile away, and is outright painful to sit through--thankfully, it doesn't last long.

I don't want to say much more (aside from the fact that the movie tips its hand about halfway through), because it'll just be spoilers on top of spoilers, but I'll leave you with this: in the typical Kelly fashion, this movie raises about 25 questions, and you're lucky to have four of them answered. If you really like his other films, you'll like this one. If not, avoid at all costs.

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