Combustible Celluloid
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With: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella, James Rebhorn, Holmes Osborne, Sam Oz Stone, Gillian Jacobs, Celia Weston, Deborah Rush, Lisa K. Wyatt, Mark S. Cartier, Kevin Robertson, Michele Durrett, Ian Kahn, John Magaro
Written by: Richard Kelly, based on a story by Richard Matheson
Directed by: Richard Kelly
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, some violence and disturbing images
Running Time: 116
Date: 09/17/2009

The Box (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Pressing Engagement

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Filmmaker Richard Kelly takes Richard Matheson's great 1970 short story "Button, Button" and expands it way beyond its logical ending. He ventures boldly into the ludicrous, and comes out the other side with an even more sinister conclusion.

Cameron Diaz and James Marsden star as Norma and Arthur Lewis, a nice couple living in Virginia in the 1970s. She's a teacher and he works for NASA; even weirder, Norma limps around with a few missing toes, and her husband has been using NASA technology to make her a new supporting appendage. Suddenly the strange Arlington Steward (Frank Langella), with his face half-scratched off, turns up at their door with an offer. If they push the button he has given them, they will receive $1 million, but someone they don't know somewhere in the world will die.

Matheson's idea was a very simple psychological experiment, but Kelly turns the idea into a kind of apocalyptic, cosmic hodgepodge similar to his previous features Donnie Darko and Southland Tales. It often doesn't make sense, and often seems to be treading water, but it's always audacious and eerily atmospheric. It received mostly scorn upon its theatrical release, but I imagine it could find a small cult following among viewers who give it more of a chance.

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