By Adam Kozyra
With Box of Moonlight, writer and director Tom DiCillo transforms America’s Independence Day from an orgy of pompous hype to a time for reflection and gratitude.
Box of Moonlight is a comment on the rigid suburban life most Americans lead. Set in a real-world fantasy, DiCillo uses the characters to create an allegory on the nature of freedom in America.
John Turturro plays Al Fountain, an electrical engineer supervising a construction project. Al soon finds the crew disrespectful of his anal-retentive ways and he lapses into depression. When the project is unexpectedly canceled, Al decided to cheer himself up by heading to the woods to find the lake he frequented as a child. Rather than return home to his wife and son for Independence Day, he tells them the project is right on schedule.
This abuse of trust is out of character for Al and, with the influence of Sam Rockwell as the rebellious woodsman Kid, begins a liberalization which has him running from the law, doing drugs and committing adultery. When he returns home the experience of freedom allows Al to be more open and caring with his family.
Both Turturro and Rockwell are believable as the straight-edged Al and the carefree Kid respectively, but the writing limits them to assuming symbolic roles for DiCillo’s allegory, leaving their character development shallow.
The mood of the film is fantastically steered by imagery of the scenes. The breathtaking opening sequence of a flight through Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains establishes the remoteness of the setting. Attention to detail, particularly the car rental office and Kid’s home, convey the essential contrast if urban conservatism and the abandon of the woods.
Littered throughout are fabulously eerie scenes where Al sees things move in reverse, signifying a return to childhood freedom.
Box of Moonlight is both an entertaining and cerebral flick. If you’re looking for something more than mindless Hollywood entertainment, this movie is your ticket.