Richard Kelly has got to be the most intriguing filmmaker working in Hollywood these days.
The – kick me in the shin for using this word – auteur’s latest, The Box, is a creepy, suspenseful thriller starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden that definitely won’t catapult him back to the top of moviegoers’ or critics’ lists, a spot he got to know after his beloved Donnie Darko, a.k.a. his cult hit calling card, but it will get ’em talking.
Except that’s precisely what I can’t do too much of, lest I spoil the movie for ya.
In The Box, Diaz and Marsden play Norma and Arthur Lewis, a suburban couple living in 1976 Virginia with their son, and facing the ultimate moral dilemma when they receive a gift (of sorts) that bears irrevocable consequences.
The Lewises are, on the surface, the epitome of an American family, but,y’ know, they’re struggling. They’re attractive, and loving, and together, but…she’s a private high school teacher who endures cruel taunts from bratty students (because she has a limp, but a whole lotta dignity), and he’s a NASA engineer who can‘t catch a break.
One fateful day, a small box is left on their doorstep, without instruction. Later that day, both Norma and Arthur receive pieces of bad news at work that threaten to shake their livelihoods.
But by nightfall, they finally learn what the box does, thanks to an explanation from one Arlington Steward (an at-his-spookiest Frank Langella).
With the push of a button, they will receive $1 million. By the power of that push, someone they don’t know somewhere in the world will die.
The caveat: They only have 24 hours to confront the depth of their own humanity and make their decision.
The will-they? suspense is resolved fairly quickly, but the nature of the ramifications of their choice propels the movie down a veritable rabbit whole of what-the? moments, which makes The Box a better movie for a night at home.
I mean, I’m still scratching my head I’m so kinda puzzled over the nature of the titular artifact, and all the mind control, teleportation, and body function manipulation writer-director Kelly throws into the mix….
For that, I say rent the movie…or better yet, rent the first season of TV’s Fringe. And also, nice try, R.K., but next time, dial down the crazy.
My Rating **
Photo: Warner Bros.