Why am I in a Box? (2009) – By Duane L. Martin

Why am I in a Box? is the first feature film from Rachel Grubb and Brooke Lemke’s Silent But Deadly Productions.  While they’ve previously done shorts and are working on a web series, this was their first outing with a feature film.  In it, Rachel Grubb plays a rather bland woman named Ellen Farnsby, who despite all her dreams and ambitions of becoming an author, ended up simply working a regular job while her talentless moron of a boyfriend Ted (Mike Rylander) gets to stay home, ostensibly to work on his novel, but he’s so utterly devoid of talent that he can’t even get past the first sentence.

One day, while chatting with Jeremy the video store clerk and would-be artist / film maker, a bizarre bitch of a woman named Paige comes up to the counter to buy a movie, and is utterly pissed off because they’re sitting there chatting while she needs to get her movie and get out of there so she can have a cigarette.  Later on, Ellen finds herself kidnapped by Paige, who locks her in a room with a chain around her neck and forces her to write a novel.  The condition to Ellen’s survival is, it has to be a novel that Paige actually wants to read, otherwise, Paige is going to kill her.  See, Paige wanted to be a novelist too, but was consistently rejected on every submission she made.  This, along with her horrible disposition and her desire to be the villain in a story, drove her insane.  Now she’s forcing Ellen to do what she herself has never been able to achieve.

Ellen’s boyfriend doesn’t even realize that she’s been gone for days, but when her work calls and says she hasn’t been in, he finally realizes she’s been gone.  To that end, Ted reports her disappearance to a pop culture junkie of a detective, who eventually ends up working with Jeremy to find her.  Jeremy by the way has had a crush on Ellen for a long time, even though he’s living with a rich artist girl named Malea (Heather Amos), who he’s just friends with, and as I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, it’s all very involved.

Now, as for the film itself, I honestly didn’t know what to expect going into it, and since I didn’t know much about the story, it ended up being one of those cases where I had to kind of figure it all out as it went along.

Why am I in a Box? is actually a very descriptive name for this film, because most of the characters are either in some form of a self imposed box and trying to get out, or in a box that other people put them in.  For example, Ellen wants to be a novelist but has become trapped in this box of working a 9 to 5 job and can’t seem to get out of it until she’s forced to by Paige, who herself is trapped in her own box of failure.  Jeremy is an artist of limited talent who really wants to be a film maker and is trying to break out of his own box.  Ted can’t write, but he believes he’s a novelist just because that’s what he’s supposed to be.  Joshua LeSuer also puts in a great, but small role as a homeless man that Jeremy has an interaction with who writes and recites poetry.  Homeless people live in their own boxes, trapped by the assumptions of the so called "regular people".

While the film jumps around quite a bit between the characters, it still manages to tell the story in a pretty coherent manner.  That said however, there were a couple of things that didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Like at one point Paige forces Ellen to go and ask Jeremy (who she already liked and who already liked her but Ted was in the way of anything happening) out to lunch so she can get some actual life experience to help her with her writing.  So she lets her out to go do that, and Ellen went along with it rather than just going straight to the police for protection.  There was also a distinct lack of urgency and concern about Ellen’s whereabouts and welfare by both Ted and the detective.

The technicals of the film were all done reasonably well.  The editing jumped around a bit but managed to hold the story together nicely while giving adequate time to each storyline and character.  The only problem I can think of visually is that the lighting in the room Ellen was kept in caused some over contrasting, but nothing major.  The acting was all consistent as well, and everyone seemed to just fit into the way this film was supposed to feel quite nicely.  There were some improved interactions though that didn’t work so well and could have used a re-take, like when Ellen and Ted are talking to Jeremy at the beginning and ended up stepping on each others lines.  It’s not a major problem, but it did feel a bit awkward.

One thing that really impressed me with the story was how they showed Ellen brainstorming and working her story out on the pages of a notebook and then tacking them up all over the walls to create a flow of ideas for her story.  She was also hallucinating and talking to her main character to find out why things were happening to her and why she was doing various things, and it actually struck me as a good technique for character development.  Imagine yourself interviewing the character, and let the character flow out of that imagined conversation naturally.  I personally found that whole concept very cool.

So in the end, how was it?  Well, despite a few problems, for their first outing with a full length feature, they did quite a good job with it.  The characters, many of whom seemed rather shallow at the beginning, developed nicely over the course of the film. There were a lot of people involved in this film who have either been Sleepover Girls here in the magazine or are people that I’ve dealt with in one way or another over the years.  It’s great to see so many of them all working together on one film, and the end result was quite entertaining on many levels.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what Rachel and Brooke come out with next.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Silent But Deadly Productions website.