Boxing Helena (1993) Jennifer Chambers Lynch
Production Budget: $6.8 million (again, VERY unofficial)
Gross: $1.8 million
One of the more notorious entries in this list. This was Jennifer Lynch’s (daughter of David Lynch) first and really only attempt at film making. Let’s just say this is not the case of a Sophia Coppolla but I’m getting ahead of myself. The plot of the movie is about a successful surgeon Nick who is obsessed with a woman he had a former affair with Helena. Helena doesn’t want anything to do with Nick and is a very manipulative bitch. Helena gets into an accident that nearly kills her. Nick takes Helena, amputates her legs and keeps her at his house in an attempt to prove she really needs him. Later to keep Helena from doing anything to get away, he also amputates her healthy arms. Madonna and Kim Basinger were originally supposed to be the movie. Basinger backed out after reading the script but was sued by the movie company. The lawsuit forced Basinger into bankruptcy and killed her career for several years. The movie was actually in contention for the Golden Lion but got slammed by most critics and the general audience. The movie has a small cult following but is still pretty much ignored.
Is it any good? I love the IMDb fanbase that tries to defend the movie by saying I don’t get it. Oh I get it, and it still sucks. In fact, I would say the problem is this movie’s themes are all too blatant and that hit you about the head with its clown hammer. This is a movie about obsession and mother issues but is so blunt I kept using the old Film Brain line of “SYMBOLISM!!!” every five seconds. Take for example when Nick first amputates Helena’s legs and tells he he will keep her at the house as his guest. She (for good reason) doesn’t take it well and starts yelling. We then cut to a shot of a bird fluttering its wings trying to get out of a cage. OMG SYMBOLLISM!!! You can also have a drinking game every time you see a replica of the Venus statue.
The acting is okay but not anything great. Both characters are ambitiously unlikable but that’s kinda the point. Art Garfunkel (of Simon and Garfunkel) is in this movie. Why? Who the f*ck knows. The special booby prize has to go to Bill Paxton who gives one of the hammiest performances of his career (and believe me, that’s saying something). He plays like this overprotective rock star boyfriend. It is hilarious to watch him in a mesh shirt, tight leather pants, and a mullet yelling that no one else will have Helena. It’s that special kind of shame few actors can reach.
My biggest problem with this movie is Lynch doesn’t know what tone this movie is supposed to take. You would think this movie by its synopsis would be a horror movie like Misery but you would be wrong. I don’t know if it’s incompetence or intentionally done but it seems like Lynch surgically removed all tension out of the story. The money shot (as it were) of when Nick amputates Helena’s arms and we see the final result should be a moment of ultimate disgust and horror. Instead the only way I can describe it is the scene is just bland and dull. It is presented in such a way that this is a normal occurrence and we shouldn’t be concerned with a woman being made into a human door post. There is no horror or tension. In fact, we are supposed to be in a way rooting for Nick’s character. He is portrayed as a pathetic but also someone with whom we are supposed to be sympathetic. So this is not a horror movie but a f*cked up romance? I dunno. I still can’t really figure that out.
If it is a romance than there are obvious f*cked up implications. For one it follows the Bella complex that looks are the only thing that are important as the inner self is worthless. Helena is a despicable character with no redeeming qualities yet we are supposed to believe Nick is in love with her. There are absolutely no reasons as for why he loves her character so the only logical assumption to make is that either he loves being in love or he just thinks she is hot. The other and more frightening implication is that women want to be locked away from the world and that stalkerish behavior is a good thing. Women are objects that only you should posses and you should lock them away until they realize that. Believe me, they will thank you for it in the end.
Boxing Helena has its parts where you could definitely watch it for mockery value or ‘so bad its good’ territory but even then its a tepid recommendation. This is not so over the top crazy that its immediate MST3K fodder but who knows; the right group of people can make anything funny.
Oh, and one last special FU to Lynch I almost forgot to mention. This movie is all a dream. Oh yeah, she goes there. Lynch uses one of the oldest and most despised cliches ever devised in Hollywood. The whole movie is pointless because it was all a stupid dream. That alone kills any pretentious “you don’t get it” cred you try to shovel at me. Ugh, I even had the ending spoiled for me and it was still a punch to the nads. I can’t believe the stuff I watch sometimes.