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Boxing Helena
USA 1993
Directed by Jennifer Lynch
Running time 102 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars


Julian Sands has more than a fair share of bad performances to his name but as Dr. Nick Cavanaugh, a hot-shot surgeon with a puppy-like devotion-cum-obsession with Helena (Sherilyn Fenn, in a role for which Kim Basinger was originally cast) he is truly awful. His awfulness is overshadowed however by Bill Paxton who plays a leather-cladded dude more reminiscent of Mike Myers’ Wayne than any credible hipster stud.

Is Boxing Helena a parody? One can only assume so although, bar a small clue at the end of the film when we hear a call for “Nurse Pat Garrett” over the hospital PA at the film’s end, there is no particular indication of it. However the hackneyed script (based on a story by Philippe Caland and adapted by Lynch when she was 19), the awful acting (which admittedly in Sands' case was probably not intentional) and the overall soap-operaish feel of the production all leads one to suggest that it is.

No doubt her famous father’s reputation helped Lynch get this, her first film made (she did not direct another until Surveillance in 2008) but parody, which uses mocking humour to say something actually substantial, is a hard act to pull off and she doesn’t get it to work here. The ludicrous aspects undermine the film as a straightforward or allegorical drama but they also leave us laughing at the performers rather than with them.  Much of the film, particularly in the early stages is piecemeal and the yawning credibility gap, which is explained at the film's end but with no real remedial effect, inhibits any sense of engagement.

No doubt in homage to one of the great male obsession movies, Nic Roeg’s Bad Timing (1980), Art Garfunkel is cast in a small role although just to add to the list of mis-calculations with this film, he looks like someone has run a pair of shears over the middle of his scalp and is mercifully removed from proceedings fairly early on.

 

 

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