Writer-Director Richard Kelly’s forthcoming The Box looks pretty trivial. Cameron Diaz and James Marsden play a couple struggling with money problems when a mysterious stranger (Frank Langella) shows up with a magic button thingy straight from the set of Deal or No Deal. If they push it, they’ll get a million bucks, but the catch is that somebody, somewhere, will die as a result! It’s a kindergarten morality play, the kind of thing that I normally wouldn’t give a second glance, except that it appears to be a showcase for one of my biggest pet peeves: sloppy southern accents.
Watch the trailer and listen to the one Cameron Diaz is trying on. “Mawnin boys ...” It’s that generic cornpone drawl that Hollywood would usually have us believe everyone below the Mason-Dixon line speaks. Memphis, Tennessee? “Mawnin boys ...” Charleston, South Carolina? “Mawnin boys ...” To natives of the south, this refusal to acknowledge what are in many cases profoundly different regional dialects can be pretty grating/laughable/offensive. That The Box represents another instance of this carelessness is surprising since Kelly is himself a southerner and set the film in his hometown (and mine) of Richmond, Virginia. Why bother if you aren’t going to get it right? Yes, Diaz is probably just as much to blame, but Kelly doesn’t help things by casting her opposite Celia Weston, whose echt South Carolina accent (which doesn’t really fit the Richmond mold either) stands out in sharp contrast, and Marsden, who’s too handsome to even bother with one. It creates a confusing mishmash where no one’s quite on the same page -- not that audiences will be surprised. It’s been the unfortunate status quo since Gone With the Wind.