Boxing Helena

When writer-director Jennifer Chambers Lynch, 25, presented Boxing Helena at the Sundance festival, she asked that her movie be disassociated from the work of her father, David Lynch. Good luck. Helena is played by Sherilyn Fenn, who starred as Audrey in Dad's Twin Peaks TV series, and the cinematographer is Frank Byers, who shot all 29 episodes. Helena also serves as a near compendium of all Dad's surreal, stylistic and erotic obsessions. In Blue Velvet, Isabella Rossellini held Kyle MacLachlan at knifepoint as her sexual captive. In Boxing Helena, Julian Sands, as Dr. Nick Cavanaugh, kidnaps his sex object and surgically removes her arms and legs so she can't leave him. Dr. Nick sees it as love, or maybe he's just wild at heart.

Helena is first seen having soft-core sex with hotheaded Ray, played by the usually fine Bill Paxton (One False Move) on a bad-acting day. She likes to undress at her bedroom window. And there, salivating in the tree outside, is Nick. One more seedy role like this and Sands will be typecast forever as a peeper creeper.

In having Nick put Helena in a pumpkin shell, Lynch is having at men who try to possess a woman by clipping her wings. "Blue Velvet" has already been there, done that. What Lynch, who wrote the script at 19, sees as high drama is really high camp. And Fenn seems clueless on how to play her limbless character. Helena is the role that Madonna rejected and Kim Basinger walked out on to the tune of $8.9 million in settlement damages for breaking an oral agreement. Sometimes even making the right decision can cost you.

From The Archives Issue 195: September 11, 1975
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