Boxing Helena

1993 Directed by Jennifer Chambers Lynch. Starring Julian Sands, Sherilyn Fenn, Betsy Clark, Art Garfunkel, Bill Paxton, Kurtwood Smith.

REVIEWED By Robert Faires, Fri., Sept. 10, 1993

Writer/director Lynch -- yes, she's the daughter of Twin Peaks guru David Lynch and it shows -- has generated much notoriety for her debut feature's subject matter, a woman's mutilation at the hands of a man who supposedly loves her, and the film did leave me shocked. Shocked that so much energy had been expended on an infantile piece of psychosexual mumbo-jumbo. Forget any expectations you may have had about Boxing Helena's treatment of obsessive love, gender roles, the objectification of women, disabilities, or the psychology of prisoners and captors; there isn't any. This film has all the pyschological depth of a wading pool. Anything you've imagined without seeing the movie is likely more interesting than what's here. Yes, Lynch does give us a doctor (Sands) who is hopelessly smitten with the charming Helena (Fenn) and goes to a repellent extreme to keep her with him: he amputates her arms and legs, but beyond that, Lynch provides little more than gauzy shots of Fenn in lacy lingerie, stroking her bust with a cool cocktail glass, Sands's puppy-dog surgeon whimpering that he's hacked off her limbs only because he truly loves her, and gratuitous slo-mo. The whole thing comes off as an adolescent male fantasy -- watching women; capturing women and keeping them; overcoming one's sexual inadequacies with women, is what it's all about. Fenn does her damndest to inject some independence into Helena -- she really has her Vivien Leigh mojo working -- but it's for naught. Lynch writes the rules, and they're strictly for the boys. There's more off here -- Smith is wasted, the score seems pulled chiefly from a “Hooked on the Classics” disc -- but let's face it, any film that has you hoping for another appearance by Art Garfunkel has more than the usual share of problems. Ordinarily, I wouldn't reveal an ending intended as a surprise, but the final measure of this film's infuriating shallowness is that, after 100 minutes of charging into this moral minefield, it resolves itself with a “gee, Auntie Em, it was so real, and you were there, and you and you” it-didn't-never-happen-so-we-don't-got-to-deal-with-this-mess-after-all ending. They can still get away with that? Talk about shocking....

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Boxing Helena, Jennifer Chambers Lynch, Julian Sands, Sherilyn Fenn, Betsy Clark, Art Garfunkel, Bill Paxton, Kurtwood Smith

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