Remember Donnie Darko? That movie about pretentious teenagers we all saw when we were pretentious teenagers ourselves? And then pretended we understood it? Well, wouldn’t you know it, Richard Kelly made another movie. It’s called The Box, set in the 70s and based on a short story “Button Button” by Richard Matheson.
The premise is: a couple with financial problems is visited by a strange old man who gives them a box with a big red button and says they have 24 hours to make a decision whether to push it or not. If they do, they’ll receive $1 million, but somewhere some complete stranger will die.
Sounded awesome. I missed it in cinemas, but when I finally saw it, there was a point in the movie – somewhere around the middle – when (SPOILERS!) the button was pushed and the dude returned for it. That was a moment I thought: “Hey, it would be awesome if he said something like: Here’s your million dollars, and I’m off to give the same proposition to some complete strangers!” But the movie does no such thing. Instead, it goes on some pseudo-philosophical rant about aliens and condition of mankind.
Sadly, I was unable to say the movie was good. It was painfully pretentious. And believe me, I KNOW pretentious. But the funniest thing is that there was another adaptation of the same story – a Twilight Zone episode from 1986 – and (SPOILERS!) guess how it ends! The old guy retrieves the button box and says “Here’s your million, and I’m off with the offer to some complete strangers!”
But that’s not all. From a hillarious website The Editing Room I learned several weeks ago that sometime between Donnie and The Box Richard Kelly actually made one more film. It’s called Southland Tales and it stars Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Rock and Stifler from American Pie, and isn’t a comedy. I just had to check it out!
The movie somehow manages to keep introducing us to a myriad of characters and describing what’s happening on the screen WHILE WE WATCH through words of a Bible-quoting and T.S. Eliot-misquoting narrator (Justin Fucking Timberlake), and yet we still have no fucking clue about what is going on. The transitions are worse than the craziest music video’s, characters sing songs out of nowhere, and did I mention that the pseudo-sci-fi plot MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE? After first eighteen minutes I said “Ok, movie, you’re 144 minutes long. I’m giving you half of that to start making sense and convince me I should keep watching, because so far you’re just fucking annoying.”
But I didn’t get that far. At 52′ mark we see a horribly rendered 3D animation about a SUV fucking another SUV (I wish I was kidding) and that was the point I just stopped. Then, after crying into a pillow for half an hour, I returned, watched the movie to the end on fast-forward to catch the most nonsensical moments, and then read The Abridged Script to get but a slightest clue about what the fuck was going on. How bad a movie must be that I had to refer to The Editing Room for analysis???
So now I know: Richard Kelly is just full of shit. I can finally stop pretending I understood Donnie Darko – Southland Tales proves that there is no shame in not making sense from any Kelly’s film, as they all just make none.
But my anger with Richard Kelly evaporated after I read what he said about the movie, and how he attempted to bullshit his way out of that pile of crap made me laugh hard. Check them out:
“[The original script] was more about making fun of Hollywood. But now it’s about, I hope, creating a piece of science fiction that’s about a really important problem we’re facing, about civil liberties and homeland security and needing to sustain both those things and balance them.”
You HOPE? Pro tip, my friend: if during a rewrite of your script you realize that the tone and the subject changes dramatically, the best for the script would be to just start from sratch. Otherwise you get Southland Tales (or the first script I’ve ever written).
“…tapestry of ideas all related to some of the biggest issues that I think we’re facing right now”
Where “tapestry” means the incomprehensible shapes Kelly vomited onto a wall after mixing vodka with whatever he was smoking while writing this script…
“Southland Tales will only be a musical in a post-modern sense of the word in that it is a hybrid of several genres.”
Would you just… listen to yourself? Also: hey! This movie is a musical! That explains… absolutely nothing.
“…strange hybrid of the sensibilities of Andy Warhol and Philip K. Dick”
Mr. Kelly, I’m ready for another of your pretentious creations. Only now I know I should expect a spiritual experience, but rather save it for a Bad Movies Night. With hookers. And booze.