Saturday, August 9, 2014
BOXING HELENA (1992)
Written & Directed By: Jennifer Chambers Lynch
Story By: Philippe Caland
Cinematography By: Bojan Bizelli & Frank Byers
Editor: David Finfer
Production Design and Art Direction By: Paul Huggins
Cast: Julian Sands, Sherilyn Fenn, Bill Paxton, Art Garfunkel, Kurtwood Smith, Betsy Clark, Nicolette Scorsese
A top surgeon is besotted with a beautiful woman who once ditched him. Unable to come to terms with life without her, he tries to convince her that they need each other. She has other ideas, but an horrific accident leaves her at his mercy. The plot is bizarre and perhaps sick at times, ending abruptly and with a twist.
I hate to admit this. Growing up this film was a guilty pleasure. It might be because of all the claims this film tries to make about feminism or seeking to seem deep. The film to me plays like a dialogue driven, quirky soft-core erotica. The kind you would see on
I believe she thought the visuals and the story would be strong enough that we would buy into the ludicrous nature of what was going on around the film. Jennifer Lynch Wrote this film when she was 19 years old. Filmed in Atlanta attorney Ed Garland's 15,000 square foot mansion. The house also was used for portions of DRIVING MISS DAISY.
The film feels like it has similar trappings of her father’s films beautiful modelesque cast. Beautiful visuals of the rich surroundings while set in a small town. While Casting Sherilyn Fenn In the lead role (only after Kim basinger dropped out and was sued for doing so. Which was a landmark case of verbal promising)
This film was at the center of a lawsuit when Kim Basinger verbally agreed to star in the film then backed out. When it was ready to go into production. Madonna also turned the role down. Back when the project was originally titled “BOXING HANNA” Basinger lost the case and Owed the producers millions. The lawsuit gave the film press as also lead to it being out under a microscope. If she had just starred In the film would have just came and gone with hardly a whimper. Instead the film got certain publicity and in effect notoriety. In other words Kim Basinger pulled out of the title role, and was successfully sued for $9 million for violation of a verbal contract. The award was overturned on appeal, and the case was settled out of court.
The film is far from great, but not as horrible as it has been as it has been billed. It's not good, but it is a fascinating film as it fails on many levels, that it feels like a film that truly believes it's art when it is clearly made to be a cult film, but maybe it's that desire to be memorable that leads to it's inclusion to being a cult film. Everyone goes into this earnestly and is clearly blind to it's own faults.
To fully explain my personal history and experience with the film. I remember wanting to see this film because of Sherilyn Fenn who I had a manic crush on ever since the film THE WRAITH and TWIN PEAKS. Which was like clean porn to me. (Though strangely I have never seen her erotic drama TWO MOON JUNCTION. I know there is plenty of nudity and sex In it, maybe too much time has passed) when this film came on home video I watched it repeatedly. I can admit more for the T & A appeal than anything else.
I remember thinking at the time it was artsy like most films that I was watching at the time, but had copious nudity and/or sex scenes. Keep in mind I had no cable only the video store. I didn't get the film, but I liked it. I was pretty sure this all meant something that I didn't get. Plus the fact that at it's heart. It was an obsessive love story really impressed me for some reason. Looking back of only I knew how that would play a role through my life a are emptied work then. As an armchair psychologist this film had a huge affect on me and as a lonely romantic teenager with hormones going into overdrive I can see why... Now.
Over the years watching it. I realize how bad or disappointing the film can be. The redacted shots of her arms and legs free and in water are obviously setting up something of a message. While the film presents Fenn as a goddess. Who the lead doctor of the film was with on once and was instantly obsessed with. He keeps trying to impress and seduce her, she flirts yet keeps turning him down and flaunts a new lover in front of him. Then she is hit by a car right in front of his home. He then takes her inside of his mansion. He is a rich surgeon, who apparently can't meet the right woman, nor any who seem interested in him. He also seems to not have many friends. He has a operating room In his house? And he amputates her arms and legs. So that she is only a head and torso. Keeping her prisoner, high he sees it as taking care of her. He tries to make her fall in love with him after all he saved her life, in his view. As he is the only one who can take care of her. Will she even really fall for him generally? Or is it more of a forced ultimatum? Though before any of This we will watch her resist strongly throughout.
The film could have been something special. Other then it's cult ready plot. If the film had been attempted by more experienced hands rather than a debut feature. Where behind the films craft can overcome the story to make something visual and beautiful somehow have a resonance or make some kind of sense. So that the audience can understand. While there are certain ideas, here doesn't feel like it had as strong a passion, not direction. As it plays more like a straight to video film. Giving the audience exactly what it wants and feeling tawdry along the way and anytime it starts to express itself. It retreats back to a formula.
Before this film I had only seen actor Julian Sands on horror films (Intentional ones) so seeing him play a dramatic role was new one a bit jarring. Though he comes through unscathed, maybe the strangeness of the environment fits him in my previous imagination. He and Sherilyn Fenn have chemistry and give decent performances. What is interesting is that he was chosen after the role was first offered to Ed Harris and John Malkovich.
Bill Paxton unfortunately doesn't as he is miscast here, as a ladies man who seems oddly out of place in this film. It was hard to believe Helena the character would even be interested in him.
As the doctor and Helena's relationship develops. There is supposed to be erotic sensual scenes including a sex scene that just ends up being funny. As it comes out of nowhere and seems to be imported from a totally different film. Only seems to be here to give the audience who has say through this so far some sex or of you rented it for the T & A like I did Initially. Giving you what you want so stop complaining. Then there is the ending which seems to totally negate what we have just seen. It seems more like he characters experiences it in another dimension or had a similar lucid dream. The film feels pretentious and overplays it’s hand, by literally focusing and showing it’s hand while you wait for the inevitable
Watch it if you are curious by nature, but for general entertainment I would really suggest skipping. As watching it is like watching a cult film that ends up becoming entertaining as it gets more ridiculous. It is a nice try and a interesting idea that just went wrong.