It’s been a while since I saw a film so abysmally bad, I had a difficult time shaking off its terrible memories. “Boxing Helena” is a horribly written, terribly acted, sloppily directed film, by none other than Jennifer chambers Lynch, daughter of David Lynch.
There’s not much to talk about the plot. It doesn’t make much sense and lacks any kind of credibility whatsoever. Dr Nick Cavanagh (Julian Sands) is a rich and successful surgeon, obsessed with Helena (Sherilyn Fenn), a sexy femme fatale living not very far from his place. Apparently he had a small fling or one night stand with her once long ago which was a major disappointment…how exactly they knew each other isn’t entirely clear in the muddled dialog which is supposed to enlighten us about this fact.
Anyway so Cavanagh throws a party and invites all his friends/neighbours when he moves to his mother’s mansion-like house after her death. One of the invitees is of course, Helena who acts like a total bitch and completely neglects her host but manages to grab eyeballs as she dances in her underwear beneath a fountain in the garden in full public view of the guests at the party (seriously now…)! Cavanagh does try to make some contact with her in the party, but fails miserably, as she walks away with one of the other guests!
As fate would have it, the next morning she meets with a hit and run accident and Nick happens to be the only one around. Seizing the opportunity of severe injuries to her legs, Nick amputates both her legs and holds her captive in his home! But that’s not all…he nurses her and takes complete care of her but does it all secretly, not letting anyone know she is with him and even cuts all ties with the rest of the world, even with his job at the hospital.
All throughout the rest of the film, Nick keeps proclaiming his love for Helena while she continues to act like a bitch and keeps hurling insults and abuses at poor Nick who doesn’t hesitate to deprive her of the rest of her limbs one by one…..but continues to nurse her and “love” her!
In the midst of all this Cavanagh also has some vivid memories of his negligent, grumpy-looking sex-obsessed mother (Meg Register) in her youth who keeps appearing naked in his brief hallucinations as he drifts away in his own world. It makes one wonder if she only appeared naked in front of Nick for him to not remember her any other way!
Barring a couple of frames, including the very first scene when Nick as a boy is shown lost in a party of his negligent parents (one of the guests even says “Marion never mentioned she had a son”) nothing in this film works! It is rife with situations that seem implausible and, at times, downright silly! Sherilyn Fenn who appeared in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks series in the memorable and confident character of Audrey Horne, seems totally lost here. Why she acts like an ungrateful woman who keeps swearing and putting down her bed-partners is not entirely clear. Hence, the character and her acting seem forced. Bill Paxton appears briefly as her “fuck buddy” ‘cause he certainly doesn’t seem to be her steady boyfriend. He is made to look really tacky with some horrible sheer tight T-shirts and a hairstyle so obnoxious you would want to send him to a parlour immediately! And Paxton who is usually dependable with his acting is made to ham it up with some dialog and awkward mannerisms and acting that’s sure to make you cringe! But this is not limited to Bill Paxton. All the other actors behave in an atrociously unreal manner…. Including a very clearly embarrassed Art Garfunkel! What the hell was he doing in the film anyway! The icing on the cake is the awful acting from the lead actor Julian Sands and his love interest played by Betsy Clark, as they deliver their lines in an embarrassingly unnatural fashion; conversation that seems so “rehearsed”, fake and out-of-sync it is unbelievable! Even the camerawork is so goddamn shoddy with some irritating slow motion used to absolutely no effect.
One would expect the film to take some interesting turns as a saving grace with a plot like this that’s riddled with crassness, poor acting and annoying dialog, but Jennifer Chambers Lynch probably couldn’t think of a way to push the already unreal and stupid script any further and resorts to a very cheap, cop-out conclusion. Lynch tries to make up for the badness of the overall film by including some pseudo erotica with a couple of slo-mo sex scenes, one featuring Nicolette Scorsese and the other featuring Sherilyn Fenn herself. And what a way to ruin good memories of some great songs of the 80s and early 90s (Enigma’s “Sadeness” and “Woman in Chains” by Tears for Fears) by playing them in the background for these scenes!
While she looks super-hot in this film, it is a pity that Sherilyn Fenn who impressed us with her superb act in Twin Peaks the series couldn’t do much with her film career, this film in particular being a big black spot on her career that never much took off!
Jennifer should’ve show this film to her father David who surely would’ve rejected it outright and laughed at the slipshod handling of the proceedings! Talent clearly doesn’t run in the family in the Lynchs’ case. What a monumental waste!