Boxing Day (2008) – By Josh Samford

Paul Busetti is a filmmaker who I have really grown to appreciate. Cannibal Cheerleader Camp and Abraham Lincoln were both pretty stunning in what they tried to do, and I was lucky enough to review both of those here on Rogue CInema. Cannibal Cheerleader Camp was the title that turned me on to Busetti’s work, and it also scored me an interview with the director. A smart and down to earth guy, I have since found myself interested in seeing anything that he produces. Boxing Day is a title that I have seen kicked around by him for a while, and am glad to finally see in its full length form. Described as a "post-racial" comedy, there was no doubt that Boxing Day was intended to deliver something very different. Although it at times treads into familiar waters, for the most part different is exactly the word I would use to describe Boxing Day. A mix of nerve rattling comedy and brilliant scripting, Boxing Day lives up to my expectations and then some.

Although not routinely used in US culture, Boxing Day is a name for the day after Christmas. This day is usually a time of peaceful slumber from exhaustion and overeating, but in our film today we are given a less than peaceful view of the family unit. Emmy Towne (Bridget Devlin Burke) is a beautiful young woman who decides to bring her boyfriend, Darryl (Demetrius Parker), to meet her family. She has tried bringing home boyfriends in the past, and on two separate occasions she broke up with the boy almost immediately afterward. Her family are completely incapable of making a good impression, and this seems to scare most guys away. Emmy is terrified the same fate awaits Darryl, but he is a much more mature man than some of the boys that Emmy has dated in the past. Or so Darryl thinks. You see, not only does Emmy’s family make a bad impression, they are also completely clueless when it comes to dealing with the fact that their young daughter is now dating a black man. Emmy’s mom is a know-it-all writer who feels she understands every situation, her father is completely clueless, Emmy’s sister is too busy rebelling against society to dare think for herself, and Emmy’s brother is a convicted prisoner who has recently escaped from prison. With the countdown to dinner commencing, how will Emmy’s closeted-racist parents deal with their daughter’s choice?

This sort of film usually isn’t my bag, to be perfectly honest. It is hard for me to endure comedies that are comprised almost entirely of scenes focused on embarrassment. For some reason, I have always found this form of comedy to be grating on the nerves. Meet the Parents and the American Pie movies are probably the most well known examples for this style of humor, and I am in the minority having not enjoyed either series. Although Boxing Day follows a similar ideal, I am thankful to report that it is not entirely familiar territory. Boxing Day is primarily interested in exploring racial issues, and it does this with the brunt force of a hammer. There will be no simple easing into these touchy waters, because Busetti decides to jump in head first. We have, of course, seen a very similar concept before. It doesn’t take a film-studies major to find the similarities between the plots found in Boxing Day and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? However, Boxing Day attempts to have fun with this subject in a much more savage manner. Right from the start, the movie tears into hypocritical liberal-elites that attempt to both portray themselves as progressive, and yet shield themselves from a great segment of society. While this could be found in the original Sidney Poitier film, few movies tackle this subject with such a sense of dark sarcasm.

Unfortunately, if there is a problem with Boxing Day it comes from the oversimplifications of certain issues. This is almost an expected addition to any comedy, since stereotypes are much easier to play with than fully defined characters. This can be seen in the way the parental units, who are presented as being so socially awkward that it seems nearly naive, immediately start tearing into tokens from their trip to Africa. When the mother figure started sporting a Barack Obama t-shirt, I started to wonder just how far over the top the movie might inevitably go. Despite the oversimplifications and the general eccentricities of the movie, it does manage to go in some very intriguing directions. This is especially true towards the end, as the movie actually builds toward a crescendo that gives the entire experience worth and meaning. The movie goes a bit over-the-top in its resolution, but it is a heartfelt resolution that seems perfectly fitting with everything that has come before it.

Set over a very small period of time, the drama never seems too intricate to seem believable. The movie rushes by at a rather blistering pace over the course of this one day, and despite everything seeming rather outlandish, the film finds the heartbeat of its characters. Although I felt reservations from time to time, this heartbeat was what drew me in and made me a fan. Boxing Day is certainly worth checking out, for anyone who is interested. Filled with some very solid performances from stars Bridget Devlin Burke and Demetrius Parker, this should be entertaining for all audiences. You can read more about the film via the official website at: http://tensundays.com/boxingday.html