With The Box, Richard Kelly, director of the questionably celebrated cult classic Donnie Darko, offers us an adaptation of a 1980’s Twilight Zone episode, originally adapted from the short story Button, Button, written by Richard Matheson.
A period film taking place in Virginia 1976, Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur (James Marsden) are a seemingly happy couple. Norma is a school teacher struggling with a concealed deformity while Arthur works at a low-level capacity for NASA. Living paycheck to paycheck and raising a young son, they try to cope through financial hardship. When a mysterious stranger (Oscar nominee Frank Langella) delivers an unassuming box with a big red button at their door, Norma and Arthur are asked to make a daunting choice. If they push the red button, they will receive a briefcase with one million dollars. However, somebody they do not know will die. If they chose not to push the button, then the box gets reprogrammed and the offer will be made to another couple. They have twenty four hours to make a decision. Can they enjoy the money and live with the guilt? That’s quite the moral dilemma, huh?
The Box starts out as a fascinating psychological thriller. The acting is decent and the film looks fantastic capturing the look and detail of the 1970’s. The movie was absolutely captivating and entertaining!
Until the final act.
This movie completely falls apart near the end. Richard Kelly, who also wrote the screenplay, doesn’t seem to want to make a movie that gives us answers to questions it raises. I find it annoying that this director, whose career I was looking forward to after his debut with Donnie Darko, made a film that was more confusing and made less sense! This story worked better as a half hour episode. To stretch it out to two hours, Kelly had the pretentious nerve to throw in existential horseshit, mixed with a confusing and uninteresting plot that had to do with higher beings or aliens or whatever. Avoid this.