The Box [Blu-Ray] Richard Kelly

The Box [Blu-Ray] Richard Kelly
The Box is not so much an adaptation of Richard Matheson's brilliant short story, Button, Button, as it is an oddly unbalanced divergent story embryo sprung from Richard Kelly's half-cooked sci-fi musings. A text scroll opens the film, hinting at something to do with Mars and being struck by lightning, making it immediately clear that Kelly has different intentions than audiences unfamiliar with the science fiction bent of his previous work (Donnie Darko, Southland Tales) may have expected. Cameron Diaz and James Marsden play Norma and Arthur Lewis, a happily married couple in the '70s who find a small wooden box on their doorstep one morning. An attached note suggests that a Mr. Steward will be calling upon the couple later that day. Norma is home alone to greet Steward, who Frank Langella invests with slightly whimsical detachment and curious empathy while explaining that pushing the button on the box will net the Lewis's a tax-free million bucks, but someone they don't know will die. Kelly, almost literally, jumps off the deep end after parting ways with the source material. In part, as explained in production featurette "Grounded in Reality," The Box is a dearly personal story about his parents. Norma and Arthur's love story, the at-first odd disfigurement subplot and the NASA/Mars Viking lander angle are all based on Kelly's actual parents. Kelly expounds on the personal details and tips his hand on the meaning behind all the mystery in his feature commentary track: he doesn't know. He just makes shit up based on ideas that seem cool, but crumble if probed for meaning. The VFX features on Arlington's face, the water coffin and on creating a '70s era Richmond are well executed and explained. The geek-quotient is readily filled by an interview with Richard Matheson on his career as a writer, and the revelation that Gentry Lee (co-author of the post-Rendezvous Rama series with Arthur C. Clarke) consulted on, and has a cameo in, the film. Too bad the substantial deleted scenes Kelly describes in his commentary aren't included. Likewise, it is unfortunate that Kelly didn't realize the film he made is best viewed as a comedy, instead of the mystery thriller it's billed as. At least the score by Owen Pallett and Arcade Fire's Win and Regine is among last year's best, but sadly won't be recognized due to its attachment to such a muddled, though oddly compelling, failure. (Warner)