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This film is noteworthy only for the list of stars who bailed out of it. Madonna was originally cast to play the lead role. She was replaced by Kim Basinger, who also left the film and was successfully sued for breach of contract. The 1993 multi-million dollar ruling against her caused her to file for bankruptcy. This ruling was overturned in 1994. The film had a limited theatrical release before being released to video.

Having seen the film myself, my one-line review is 'You can put a limbless person in a box, but you can't polish a turd.

Enough with the minimal film reviews, people!

I was (un)lucky enough to see this film some years ago. For the benefit of those who have been unlucky enough to not see it yet, I will give a brief description of the plot and major events. Note that the following text may contain spoilers; while IMHO it would be difficult to make the movie any worse, you might not want to read on if you want the (bestial) plot to be a suprise.

Spoilers follow...







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OK, here goes....

I saw the movie some years ago, so my recollections may be somewhat damaged... if so, sorry!
The plot centers around a doctor and this chick that he has a major, if sick, crush upon - most of the film features just these two people, although the good doctor's erstwhile girlfriend does show up at one point. (They make out with the truncated Helena watching voyeuristically, he fantasises that his girlfriend is Helena, he cums in his pants and sends her away in embarassment. Silly man.) The girl that he has a crush on has some sort of accident near him, and he is first on the scene to treat her injuries. He takes her back to his house, and amputates her leg because it isn't worth saving - then keeps her a prisoner in his home, albeit one that is waited upon hand and foot, while he tries to convince her to have sex with him. As the film wears on, he amputates all of her limbs, and eventually brainwashes her into 'loving' him, whereupon the girl's husband or boyfriend or pimp or something bursts in, discovers what has happened and knocks over a vase which breaks on the doctor's head, knocking him out. When he wakes up, he goes to the hospital where she is, to find out how she is... only to find that she has all her limbs... he dreamed the whole thing while unconscious after the accident. Apart from being a really lame ending, isn't such a plot device (...and then I woke up, and realised it was all just a dream) supposed to be one of the hallmarks of bad writing?

Watching this stinker led me to the conclusion that it is a kinky porno film thinly disguised as an arty flick, succeeding not in either capacity - too little pr0n for porno, and too crappy for an art flick. Take my advice and avoid it like the plague!
With one viewing, I would have agreed that this movie should never have been produced. Then I went back and watched it again (I'm a pervert), and damn! What seemed at first like painful drivel, now made much more sense. The sequencing is unfortunate; Helena's symbolic importance is obscured until the end, at which point it's overshadowed by the cheesy "but then he woke up" device. The parallels between Helena and Dr. Nick's mother should have been better accentuated as well.
Armed with foreknowledge of the dream sequence as such, this movie is reshaped as a disturbing story of a man's sexual inadequacy, heavily laced with Oedipal and castration symbolism. Dr. Nick is obsessed with Helena because she is so like Mother (and the limbless statue): beautiful, sexually appealing, but providing no emotional nourishment. Young Nick didn't get much positive attention from Mother; note the dialogue in the opening party scene: "oh, she didn't mention having any children." Throughout the rest of the movie, Mother is always portrayed as angry or contemptuous. Dr. Nick doesn't love Helena (despite shifty-eyed dialogue to the contrary); he just wants to rewrite his relationship with Mother.
In flashback, when he takes ownership of the family estate, he recalls one of Mother's lovers leaving her bedroom. Mother struts out and sneers, "You were watching me, weren't you." Dr. Nick jogs by Helena's house, and climbs a tree to peep into her window. Dream-Helena derides Dr. Nick for his premature ejaculation with Anne, then points back to his ineptitude in their own one-night stand. These scenes establish Dr. Nick's sexual inadequacy. Anne's reassurances don't help him feel more virile; on some level he senses that he's losing something important by letting Anne gloss over his sexual dysfunction. In this respect, dream-Helena is a tough inner guide, forcing Dr. Nick to face up to his inadequacy.
The whole extended dream sequence, then, is Dr. Nick resolving his love-hunger in an imaginary world where he (literally) has the object of his desire, and the price of that sort of "having": secrecy, shame, loss of his surgical career, loss of Anne's real uncoerced love, fear of Helena's rescue, and the grotesqueness of this ultimate objectification.

"Boxing Helena" is a 1993 drama and psychological horror film with aspects of surrealism and black comedy, whose intrinsic value as a film is usually overshadowed by the external history of the film's production. Would-be star Kim Bassinger dropped out of filming due to concern with the movie's content, leading to a lawsuit and production delays. The movie was also the directorial debut of Jennifer Lynch, only 25 at the time of the movie's release. As the daughter of acclaimed director David Lynch, there were high expectations placed on the film, and the movie's commercial and critical failure led to the disruption of her career.

The plot of the movie tells the story of Nick Cavanaugh (Julian Sands), a young, successful and talented surgeon who also has lots of inherited money and a very attractive girlfriend, but who is strung up with oedipedal issues from a neglectful mother, and has channeled his neurosis into an obsession with Helena (Sherilyn Fenn), a neighboring woman who he had a short-lived relationship with, but continues to stalk. When an accident leaves Helena helpless near Nick, he operates on her, amputating her legs to save her life, but also kidnapping her and keeping her captive in his mansion. While he continues to try to "care" for her, she returns his "affection" with justified abuse and anger. Since she continues to resist, he then amputates her arms as well, trying to transform her into someone who can not reject him.

This is, obviously, a strong film with some very difficult themes. It is bizarre and grotesque and touches on some psychologically fraught territory. Perhaps it says something about what the internet has done for us all, but while very controversial when it was released, I found the sex and violence to both be tastefully done, considering. If the film was taken as a conventional drama, then the violence of the plot would be repulsive. But taken as a surreal story of psychological horror, the movie does what it needs to communicate the stunted psychology of Nick Cavanaugh. It also might be problematic that the movie doesn't explicitly make him a villain: by showing him as a sympathetic, pathetic and even comedic character, the movie might not make it clear that kidnapping and mutilating women is wrong. But the film certainly does communicate that, through less obvious ways. This is an art film, not a Lifetime Original Movie, and it manages to communicate the horrificness of what is going on without turning Cavanaugh into a slobbering monster.

While there are some artistic complications, there is nothing terribly technically wrong with the movie. The cinematography, pacing and plotting are all technically well done. The one problem is that several characters who are brought in at the movie's normal beginning, including Lawrence, Nick's best friend, who is played by Art Garfunkel, disappear from the plot as the movie continues. But overall, it shows competent direction. The problem was that while Jennifer Lynch's direction would have been considered quite good for someone making an experimental film or a student film, the expectations placed on her were too high, and when the film had problems, it was seen as more of a failure than it was.

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