Lawrence O'Toole
January 29, 1993 AT 05:00 AM EST

Monster in a Box

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG-13
runtime
87 minutes
performer
Spalding Gray
director
Nick Broomfield
distributor
Channel Four Films
author
Spalding Gray
genre
Biography

We gave it a C-

Someone talking for 90 minutes straight is usually a reliable recipe for tedium. But in 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, monologuist Spalding Gray, seeking a ”perfect moment” and finding it, terrified, in the Indian Ocean, really bucked the trend. Alas, there is no such epiphany in Monster in a Box, which has him ruminating, once again, about personal history and global issues. But this time self-reference has given way to self-fascination.

The title refers to a book manuscript, motivated by his mother’s suicide, that lies unfinished while a number of distractions — L.A., Nicaragua, Moscow — get in the way. Not even Gray’s puckishness, his rat-a-tat-tat delivery, or his suaveness can camouflage the diffusion of anecdotes that refuse to coalesce into either a narrative or a satisfying alternative. Toward the end, he starts talking about his reviews from a production of Our Town; it’s like saying, ”Enough about me. Here’s what other people think of me.” C-

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