Thursday, May 7, 2009

'BOXING HELENA' PROVES THAT WHEN IT COMES TO OBSESSION, STIMULATING DIALOGUE (AND LIMBS) ONLY GET IN THE WAY.

Everyone loves a good smoking ruin of a movie. Witness the popularity of fascinating train wrecks like Crimes of Passion, Hudson Hawk and Last Action Hero, each infinitely more entertaining in their own way than a truckload of Oscar-winners. There are few pleasures to rival the completely sedentary evening spent with your most sardonic friends cackling like freshmen on hallucinogens at movies like BOXING HELENA.

Boxing Helena turned out to be one of the most hilarious 104 minutes of 1993. The initial buzz that surrounded the film -- insistently referring to it as "bound to be controversial"-- all but assassinated any potential audience this uproarious trash may have had to begin with. It was said that people who actually saw it tried to get their money back from embarrassed, albeit non-budging, theater managers. But for lovers of Bad Movies, owning the film is a whole other story. When you pop this into the ol’ dvd player at home with friends, you welcome the ridiculous plot and anticipate the ludicrous transformation Sherilynn Fenn will go through. Furthermore, Helena takes itself so seriously that we can only respond with gales of derisive crowing.

Fenn plays a convincing man-eating bitch who makes the mistake of sleeping (just once) with Julian Sands, a prominent surgeon, and obviously some sort of thumbsucking psycho whose mother used to parade around the house naked. Obsessed with Fenn, although she'd rather be bulldozed by a speeding truck than speak with him, Sands climbs a tree to spy on her in her bedroom, makes covert phone calls, and eventually throws a party for her. She comes, dances in the fountain (no kidding, our favorite scene) and, natch, leaves with another guy. This gets our flipped-out doc all steamed up and, apparently, sends him over the edge.

Soon enough, kismet strikes. Party-girl Fenn gets bulldozed by a speeding truck right outside Sands's estate, and the next thing we know she wakes up without legs in his mansion. Not in the best of moods, she berates him, screams her head off and throws anything she can get her hands on across the room. Can't have that, Sands concludes, and soon she's armless too, which is revealed to us when he's spoonfeeding her. "I have just one question..." she begins with a straight face. Just try to stem the reflex to ask -- for her -- "Where the hell are my arms?"

As improbable as it may seem, she grows to love him (sure, we'd fall in love with someone who cut off our arms and legs, too). That does not, however, stop her incessant talking, and we can only presume that Sands would have gotten around to cutting her head off as well, if the movie hadn't ended first. Fenn and Sands are both hopelessly earnest, while the supporting cast either has a superb handle on this nonsense (witness Bill Paxton's shag-haired rock stud) or seems to have wandered in off the street: Art Garfunkel, as Sands's pal, sits around in a silent daze as if someone told him Paul Simon was supposed to show up.

This is the movie that Kim Basinger had to fight like hell to get out of, not to mention cough up a hefty fine -- the best few mil she ever spent. As for writer/director Jennifer Lynch, (weirdo daughter of David), the 23-year-old director, who posed for press shots in front of the Venus de Milo and talked about how we're all in our own boxes, you've got to give it to her -- at least she makes us laugh -- if not with her.

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I'm just an ordinary housewife and mother...just like all you ordinary housewives and mothers out there.

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