Richard Kelly has a fairly big cult following. It all stems from his 2001 indie hit Donnie Darko, staring Jake Gyllenhaal. Following Donnie Darko, Kelly wrote the screenplay for Keira Knightley’s bounty hunter action flick Domino. Because of the admiration of his peers and colleagues, Kelly was asked to present his unfinished work-in-progess Southland Tales at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. It received awful reviews, followed up with by a very limited theatrical release in the U.S. – so small it appeared to be a direct-to-DVD title. Perhaps trying to prove himself as a more than a one-hit-wonder, Kelly has attempted his first major studio flick with The Box.
The Box is Richard Kelly’s feature-length adaptation of the Richard Matheson’s short story “Button, Button” which was also adapted into a 1986 Twilight Zone episode. It stars Cameron Diaz (Charlie’s Angels) and James Marsden (X-Men) as a married couple struggling financially to support their family. Just as their financial troubles hit a new low, a mysterious package shows up on their front doorstep. Inside is a box with large red button and a note saying that a visitor will be arriving. That evening, a man named Arlington Steward (Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon) shows up at their house to explain the conditions of the box: if the button is pushed, somewhere in the world, someone they do not know will die. As a result of having pushed the button, the couple will receive a case containing one million dollars. The terms of the agreement are that they can never ask about the identity of his employer, they must keep it a secret and they have 24 hours to make the heavy decision.
Because The Box is adapted from a short story into a 115-minute movie, some of it feels unnecessary. Once it gets past that initial premise of the story, it starts to get excessively wild – especially when it comes down to the science fiction parts of the story. If you can write-off those problems, knowing that you’re going into an odd Richard Kelly film, then you should enjoy The Box. If not, you’ll most likely hate it.
Forgive me for the brevity of this review, but if I go any deeper into any aspect, I will end up spoiling something. Simply pay attention to the criteria of people who will like The Box. If you don’t qualify, don’t see it.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.