Boxing Helena – 1 out of 5
Boxing Helena has always been a movie I’ve heard about but never bothered taking the time to seek out and watch. Recently, after watching the return of Twin Peaks, I was reminded of its existence due to the fact it stars Sherilyn Fenn and it was a story from Jennifer Lynch, David Lynch’s daughter. I figured that since I like David’s stuff—in an infuriating way because sometimes his stuff is so strange that I think even he doesn’t understand what he’s making—that I might enjoy what his child has created. Well, that clearly wasn’t the case.
|At least the film gave us Bill Paxton looking like he's cosplaying as Steve Perry.|
Dr. Nick Cavanaugh (Julian Sands) is a successful surgeon (with a bit of a traumatic past) who, one day, crosses path with an old lover of his named; Helena (Sherilyn Fenn). Their fling was short lived but Cavanaugh never forgot her and is quick to start obsessing once again. He’s advised by a colleague; Dr. Lawrence Augustine (Art Garfunkel), that he should forget her and stay the course on his current life but he can’t let it go. He starts to stalk and do everything he can to see her but when a hit-and-run leaves Helena injured, Cavanaugh’s obsession enters a new level of frightening as he amputates her arms and legs to prevent her from ever being able to leave him again.
|Step 1: Remove her limbs. Step 2: ??? Step 3: Love!|
Where do I begin with a 1993 movie that involves a dude so unhealthily obsessed with a woman that he would cut her limbs off in an effort to prove he loves her? Well, I’ll start with saying that the premise isn’t actually too bad. It’s super unsettling, very unnerving and has all the potential to be a really demented film that explored and dissects desire gone wrong. The film ends up not taking that course as its tone is a little unclear and the development of the characters feels wholly unnatural. Add in a very terrible and laughably cliché ending and it made for a film that completely wasted the promise it held.
|In the fountain with her clothes on, what a free spirit!|
Or a huge fan of Friends.
One thing that really had me perplexed about this film was how we were supposed to feel about Dr. Nick Cavanaugh. On paper, he is undoubtedly the antagonist because he stalks a woman, holds her against her will and then mutilates her so she can’t escape—all in an effort to show he loves her. However, the actually execution of the character muddied up the waters and made him a tad confusing. First off, the story hints that he was subjected to sexual and emotion abuse from his mother and this is meant to simultaneously be something that explains both his desire to continue to want to be with Helena, because she is also abusive to him, but it also is a shorthand way of giving motivation as to why he would think that what he does to Helena is a correct course of action. On the surface, having this backstory is great because it provides depth to Cavanaugh and it also adds just the right amount of sympathy to the character so he’s not over-the-top evil. There’s nothing wrong with having your antagonists have multiple dimensions to them. However, whether or not he truly is the bad guy really starts to become confusion and terribly unclear when other factors are added to the equation.
|I hope Fenn got paid well for this film...and also for the injustices that were done|
to her character in Twin Peaks.
|I'm not entirely sure why Art Garfunkel was in the film.|
And the way his hair always looked like it was in an
utter state of shock, I would say he didn't even
As it pertains to the performances, this film isn’t too bad. Sherliyn Fenn is excellent as Helena and the supporting cast members of Kurtwood Smith as a colleague of Cavanaugh and Bill Paxton as one of Sherliyn’s lovers are great but Julian Sands as Cavanaugh himself I found to be pretty bad. Sands’ performance is a great contributor to my confusion over the intention and handling of this character. He plays the part with this child-like, almost inane sense of innocence that suggested to me that Sands believe the character to be the true victim and tthe abuse he took from his mother is to blame for what happened. Combine this with his reactions to his “courtship” of Helena made it seem like Sand truly believed that Cavanaugh was just a “nice guy” who was trying to cash in his “friendly coins" into “bone-zone” time with Helena. To put it bluntly, Sands made the character look like one of those fedora wearing neckbeard guys online who think the “Friend Zone” is a real thing. This performance doesn’t feel like this was done as an exploration of how dangerous this line of falsely believed relationship payment can be but rather like he truly believes that a woman has to repay moments of kindness and misguided devotion with sex and a relationship. Maybe Sands is really a great performer as this “nice guy” routine feels genuine but the true intent for this character becomes even more confusing when one final factor is put into place.
|This movie needs to be remade but, this time, written specifically with the purpose|
that Cavanaugh is a douche who thinks the "Friend Zone" is real.
|Red saying "Dumbass" came to mind several times|
when I watched this film.
Since filmmaking began, writers and producers have had a tenuous grasp at best with how the heart works. Too often, what appears to be Stockholm Syndrome is what passes for love on the big screen and Hollywood has perpetuated the idea that women will eventually come around and open herself up to a man, no matter how shitty of a person that dude was (to see this at its most disgusting and lazily written, take a look at Passengers). Boxing Helena does this as, Spoiler Alert for a film that is old enough to drink, Helena ends up falling in love with Cavanaugh. How exactly does this happen? Hell if I know because it comes out of left field. Jennifer Lynch treats us to a few scenes that, I suppose, are meant to show us that Helena is suddenly becoming okay with the idea that this man mutilated her and is keeping her prisoner just so he can get naughty fun time with her but this never feels organic. The moment where she confesses her love feels forced. This uneven presentation can be written off because, at the end, we learn that it is all a dream of Cavanaugh’s—once again, Spoiler Alert for a movie that is over two decades old. It could be argued that Helena’s sudden turn is due to the unpredictability of dreams and Cavanaugh’s subconscious giving him what he wants. I won’t deny that. However, it can also be argued that this was the Lynch’s lazy and terribly uncreative way of trying to be strange like her father and it just manifested itself in the most predictable way possible.
Boxing Helena has a premise that feels like it should be a great dark feature that explores the depths of human depravity and how corrupted a person’s feelings can be twisted. Ultimately though, the film comes undone by a tone and atmosphere that feels unfocused as the concept offers up one thing, the actually story seems to be showing something else and the lead actor feels like he is doing his own thing all together. When that is added to a very lazy and unsatisfying conclusion, it made for a film that was amazingly disappointing. Sure, it has some shocking images and themes woven within it but all the shock is wasted when the whole thing feels like it has no idea what it is trying to accomplish and then decides to give the middle finger to the audience by delivering a “Ha ha, fooled you” ending.