Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ouf of the Box.

Jose here.

If there's a performance from an obscenely rich rom-com queen I loved last year it was Cameron Diaz in The Box.

Even if the movie wasn't a particular success at the box office and except for one or two critics everyone seemed to hate it, I think it was one of the most interesting experiments done in the past few years and it really has cult potential (and yes I'm aware that's always said of Richard Kelly's films).

Great part of this is owed to Diaz's brilliant turn as a conflicted woman threatened by a single choice she makes. Perhaps unintentionally Diaz gives a performance with more awards bait potential then her facile attempt at "acting" in her other '09 film.
She plays a 70's suffering wife with a disability in a genre film! Sure the genre part is a buzz kill for "serious acting" parameters but that's what's amazing about her in this: her ability to be completely moving and lacking in self consciousness while a faceless Frank Langella threatens her with the apocalypse and self parody.

People were annoyed by Kelly's B movie-ness and The Box went practically unperceived. Those who saw it, do you think it was political allegory? Strict sci-fi homage? or a preposterous flop?
If you haven't seen it, today's your chance as it's out on DVD and Blu-ray.


BeRightBack said...

I just saw this the other day! I really liked it, although less than Darko and Southland Tales. It struck me, basically, as a David Lynch-style exploded/psychoanalytically deconstructed Twilight Zone episode (in the sense that Mulholland Drive is, among other things, an exploded/psychoanalytically deconstructed noir).

My biggest problem with it was the overexplained finale - I think it would have been more effective if the nature of the mysterious man in charge of everything was kept mysterious. The explanation didn't add anything to what you can already infer thematically, and diminished the dreamlike resonance of the framing, etc. The movie's dramaturgy thematized the lack of closure in the world it creates (a theme heightened by the seeming formal closure of the hyper-organized frames, etc., which nonetheless frequently have disturbing things hidden in them, unaccountably), so striving for a tidy ending for everything works against its very meaning (and doesn't work, because there are still too many inexplicable things anyway - which should be the strength of the project, and is, but the ending makes one suddenly try to fit everything back together again, rendering what was once a strength into a seeming weakness).

But ANYWAY - all that said, I really liked it and the ending didn't *ruin* it for me, it just made me understand why others rejected it out of hand.

Dean said...

Whatever the hell it is, it's brilliant, my third favorite film of the year behind Inglourious Basterds and Thr Hurt Locker. I actually wasn't crazy about Diaz's performance but it definitely wasn't bad. The movie though takes so many risks and they paid off in my opinion. It's very David Lynch like and there is a sequence that takes place in a library that is so strange but so compelling that it's my favorite scene of the year. I definitely think it'll gain cult status so everybody should see it now.


"threatens her with the apocalypse and self parody" HAHA. oh... good one, Jose, good one.

Walter L. Hollmann said...

I don't know what it was or why it was, I just know I loved it. Though I did think...I mean...it's a trifle anti-woman, isn't it? Am I missing something by thinking it to be mostly about how weak-willed women are? The Diaz performance felt bizarre to me, and I think part of that was Kelly's own confusion of who this woman was. Like when she looks at Frank Langella and later insists that she felt love. I saw your voice, madam; that looked like horror to me!

But I loved it, as I love all Richard Kelly movies. I'd rather a beautiful failure than a lazy success (Eastwood). And the score by Arcade Fire needs a release, it's so beautiful and perfect!

Ann McD said...

Nathaniel, do you plan on seeing it?

The Taxi Driver said...

I haven't see the film itself yet but I feel that this may be the way all of Richard Kelly's films may be recieved unless he does a complete career about face. The problem with Kelly is that he was a young filmmaker who found too wide a success with his first film and nothing else has lived up to it since, because, really, he's not that good a filmmaker (I suspect for the very same reason Lee Daniels may never be this popular after Precious again). I was in high school when I stumbled on Donnie Darko on video, back before anyone had heard about it and I loved it. Of course, as a silly high school kid I thought I had seen something profound that would be over the heads of most of my contemporaries, but as I grew and saw more movies and widen my horizons I realized, that there is basically nothing to Donnie Darko. Kevin Smith said in his Evening With Kevin Smith 2 that not even Richard Kelly knows what Donnie Darko is about and I though, you know, that's probably true: Donnie Darko is just the byproduct of an over anxious kid screwing around for the heck of it. The trainwreck that was Southland Tales but furthers the point, Kelly doesn't have a clue what he is doing. He's a cult filmmaker, making cult films that hope to recieve cult status by being purposely cult-y. I will still see the Box, hey Roger Ebert liked it, but I don't think Kelly will ever be as big as he was in the late 90s because the film that established his "brillance" turns out not to be that brilliant after all.

Unknown said...

I saw this film, and it was quite interesting. My only draw back with Diaz was that hideously exaggerated accent. ;)

Anonymous said...

Amen to C. M. Dobson.

I enjoyed The Box--not as much as Donnie Darko, which for all its flaws presented some of the most haunting scenes of the last decade, but a good sight better than Southland Tales.

That said, as a Southerner whose ear is attuned to phony Southern accents, I found it absolutely torturous to listen to Diaz's clumsy rendition of my native dialect. I'm talking a Kevin-Costner-in-Robin-Hood level of distracting.

Anonymous said...

Diaz was brilliant indeed - actually, she's one of my favorite actresses-stars at work today. The Box was a failure, indeed, but an hypnotic one. I actually dug it a lot.