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Boxing Helena Review

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Distraught and unable to cope with a break-up from the beautiful Helena, surgeon Nick Cavanaugh is surprised to find her at his mercy after a terrible accident. He proceeds to remove her limbs one by one, leaving her to live in a box.

★★★★

It’s a salutary lesson that a film that hopes to be accorded some gasping notoriety for its twisted sexuality and violence, all wrapped up a weird sub-sub-comedy, is better known for its behind-the-camera shenanigans. According to the case, Kim Basinger was due to play the heartless and finally limbless Helena, but pulled out of her contract (understandably in hindsight given the risible result) causing a stew of writs and tiresome legality which left the film playing a sad second-fiddle with its own hoped for controversy.

Sherylin Fenn took over as the object of Julian Sands unnatural obsession, and she looks unsure what she’s just stepped into, overcooking what should be a fiery, demented victim of her own self-hatred as much as the doctor’s cracked love. Jennifer Chambers Lynch has clearly looked to her father David and his offbeam Americana liberated from textual logic, but she has none of his sly humour and visual intoxication.

Daddy was all subtext, daughter forces it all onto the surface, robbing the film of a much-needed ambiguity. Cavanaugh, played with Sands usual giddy imbalance, is a Freudian mishmash tormented by unnatural desires for his deceased harpy of a mother, transferring his affection onto the dreadful Helena, a ridiculous concoction of curves and carnality. How she torments the befuddled doc. Even after a car crash forces him to amputate both her legs, and traps her in his home, she wheels about in an ancient wheelchair, flinging things at him and screeching like a car alarm.

If the film wasn’t so painfully unwatchable, it might have taken on a splashy, crackpot humour of its own. No luck, Lynch has no control of her own filmmaking limbs, and what should be an arch parable of dark sexual fantasy teeming with possession, control, and revenge, its dopey castration metaphors and despicable characters leave unmanned, unwomanned and entirely unlikable.

Nothing to recommend it really.