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Ken was at the 12th British Film Festival held in Nantes in film Katorza, 3 rue Corneille in Nantes from 5 to 11 December 2007, to promote 12 In A Box.
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12th British Film Festival Nantes
Orange Cinema Zurich - Premiere
Tuesday, July 21st, 2009
When looking over the hellscape that is mainstream comedy film, it may feel like there is nothing but cheap laughs from cruelty, dick & fart jokes aimed at 12 year olds, and lame sight gags. Where are the clever films with scathing wit, intelligence, and realistic human interaction? Well, in the less-publicized world of indie film, of course. We’ve found one of these hidden gems and, as luck would have it, it’s scheduled for a limited engagement right here in Los Angeles!
12 in a Box was shown earlier this year at the Brittish Film Festival (in LA), where it won the Best UK Film award. My husband and I were fortunate to have been invited to the festival and have a chance to see this smart, funny film. Though we tend to only go to a limited number of movies in the theater, much less ones we’ve already seen, 12 in a Box is on our calendar for a second go-round during its run at the Laemmle early next month.
Farce can go a lot of ways, few which manage to fully capture the art with wit and nuance. Happily for those of us who can’t get enough of classic Brittish farces and great screwball comedies of the 30s, 12 in a Box finds just the right balance between believability and absurdity. And, like the films it celebrates, it lets that balance subtly tilt off kilter as the story builds. There is never a moment when you doubt the characters or the strange situations that ensue. Even near the end of the film, when the comic tension and wits of the characters have reached a fever pitch, the odd developments feel right and somehow natural.
12 in a Box poster - click to view full size
12 in a Box poster - click for full size
The premise of the film is simple, twelve people are invited to a stately mansion for a school reunion dinner and offered 1 million pounds cash each if they stay there, cut off from the outside world, for 96 hours. Of course, in the great tradition of farce, this simple goal becomes increasingly complicated rather quickly. Alliances are forged and broken, relationships tested, and no one is quite what what they seem. What begins as a single unpleasant wrench in the plan, sets off a chain of events that wind up the manic tension toward and ending that will, literally, have you gasping out loud and jumping up from your seat.
Granted, this is not one of those formulaic “with a twist” films. In 12 in a Box, writer/director John McKenzie has crafted an entertaining story, rich with believably quirky characters, witty dialogue, and strange complications which build organically on each other throughout the film. Standouts in the cast are Belle Hithersay as the seemingly sweet and pious Alice and Kenneth Collard as Barry, who will need to skip his own wedding to earn his million pound nest egg, but the entire ensemble truly deserves a lot of credit. It’s obvious a lot of love and care went into creating the story and bringing it to life.
Certainly, there are a lot of comedies vying for your film-going dollar during the summer. Great independent films like 12 in a Box can be harder to find behind the giant hype bubble surrounding much of mainstream Hollywood’s churn ‘em out dreck. But, as in life, seeking out something better is always worth the effort.
Check out 12 in a Box during its week-long engagement (premiers August 7, 2009) at:
Laemmle’s Music Hall 3
9036 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, 90211
For info and tickets: view Laemmle’s 12 in a Box page
View The official 12 in a Box website
A funny four days around the manor
Writer-director John McKenzie admittedly fashioned the dark British farce "12 in a Box" after the understated old Ealing Studios comedies ("Kind Hearts and Coronets," "The Ladykillers") rather than take the more typically wacky -- and often tedious -- "slamming doors" approach.
The somewhat familiar premise finds a dozen folks showing up at an opulent (and, yes, boxy-looking) country manor expecting to attend a school reunion, only to discover, via a videotaped message, that they've been randomly chosen by the mansion's dying, heirless owner -- one of the school's elder alumni -- to receive a million pounds apiece, provided they don't leave the grounds for 96 hours. That last bit is, of course, easier said than done as a host of unexpected hurdles -- heart failure, sexual indiscretion, marital discord, an ill-timed robbery and more -- conspire to keep this suddenly greedy bunch from their payday.
McKenzie's smart, if riskier approach forced the filmmaker to concoct spontaneous, character-driven complications to pay off the movie's loaded setup rather than jerry-rigging the plot with some pre-ordained maze of obstacles. The result is a nicely calibrated romp peppered with more than a few genuinely funny moments.
The large cast performs with comic aplomb as McKenzie slowly ratchets up the stakes before going for broke in the final reel. It's jolly good fun.
-- Gary Goldstein "12 in a Box." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills.