Does anyone remember this movie? I remember seeing a trailer for this movie back in 2009 when I went to see The Invention of Lying. A month after its release to DVD, I’d watch the trailer constantly. And then, it just vanished out of mind. It wasn’t until a TikTok that centered on a joke about the premise that I decided to finally give this movie a watch.
The movie follows Norma and Arthur Lewis (played by Cameron Diaz and James Marsden respectively), a couple living in 1970s Virginia and living paycheck-to-paycheck who one day receive a mysterious box with a button on it. Arlington Steward (Frank Langella), an enigmatic figure visits and tells them that if they press it, they’ll get a million dollars, but someone they don’t know will die. After thinking it through, Norma pushes the button. However, they get buyer’s remorse and try to learn more about the shady Steward and where this is all coming from.
It’s hard to comment on the supporting cast because it isn’t necessarily remarkable. With the exception to Gillian Jacobs giving an eerie pre-Community performance, most of the background characters don’t stand out to me. The main cast, however, does a solid job. Cameron Diaz and James Marsden have a great chemistry; they work things out in a partnership that reflects how strong their marriage is. And then you have Frank Langella, who’s performance is chilling and feels reminiscent of Christopher Lee.
The story is a mixed bag. On the one hand, there’s a lot of interesting ideas this movie presents about free will and human nature. And many of the shots are brilliant, harkening back to The Conversation and other thrillers from the 70s. But at the same time, the rest of the story had me asking more questions than answers. And without spoiling the ending, it was kind of predictable looking at how the scenes are shot. I had the movie spoiled and I forgot it, but still put the pieces together before the third act.
After finishing this movie, I was glad that I finally saw it. While the story can be confusing and feel too ambitious at times, there are a lot of interesting ideas that made me wish I was more familiar with Jean-Paul Sartre and director Richard Kelly’s magnum opus, Donnie Darko. Top that with a solid leading cast and you have a decent movie to catch on FX.