the Deep South, there is not much to do except have graphic sex and commit
senseless acts of violence. At least,
that is the portrait Lee Daniels chooses to paint in The Paperboy (trailer
here). However, the biggest mystery of his
adaptation of Pete Dexter’s 1995 crime novel is why anyone would screen it as
part of a gala tribute to co-star Nicole Kidman. Yet, that is what happened last night at the
50th New York Film Festival.
is the late 1960’s or so in Florida’s swamp country. Tarty death row groupie Charlotte Bless has
convinced a pair of Miami newspapermen to look into her “boyfriend” Hillary Van
Wetter’s case. Ward Jansen is actually
coming home to the town where his father W.W. publishes the local birdcage
liner and his younger brother Jack does not really do anything at all. Of course, the junior Jansen will fall head
over heels for sleazy femme fatale as he shuttles her, his brother, and Ward’s
African American colleague Yardley Acheman about town.
is a crusading journalist-legal thriller in Paperboy
somewhere, but it often gets lost in Daniel’s heavy-handed but discursive
narrative, told in flashback by the Jansen’s family maid, Anita Chester, who is
never in any position to witness the events she relates. Instead, we see Bless going number one on
young Jansen’s jellyfish stings and sit through several scenes of autoerotica. Eventually showing the audience Matthew
McConaughey’s elder Ward Brother naked on the porcelain throne, Daniels will
clearly spare us nothing.
is bad movie, but Daniels does his best to dress up his lurid material with
some visual flare and a soulful R&B soundtrack. It helps, but only so much. Too preoccupied with sex and race, Daniels
often lets the crime story founder, distracted by his characters’ hang-ups.
it is rather baffling why Kidman would accept the role of Bless. Regardless of her box office track record, she
is one of the few actresses in Hollywood who can play it smart and classy, as
well as sexy. However, the lingering
aftertaste of Paperboy could damage
that image. In truth, she is not bad
revisiting To Die For terrain,
provided viewers are okay with the obscure motivations and rash decision-making
endemic to all the film’s characters.
Efron is also adequate enough as young Jansen, largely reprising his bid for
respectability in Me and Orson Welles,
but with more sex and less earnestness.
As the supposedly mercurial Van Wetter, John Cusack just looks like a
sad Muppet. Deep dark secrets
notwithstanding, McConaughey does his regular Lincoln Lawyer thing as Brother Ward. Most frustratingly, the great Scott Glenn is
criminally wasted as old man Jansen.
Just a big humid mess, viewers will want to
shower after seeing The Paperboy. Yet, it is hard to turn away from it, like
the sight of a wrecking ball demolishing a building. Call it a career-wreck. Not recommended, The Paperboy opens tomorrow (10/5) in New York at the Landmark
Sunshine and AMC Loews Lincoln Square, following its gala screening at the 2012
New York Film Festival.
Labels: Movie Journalists, Nicole Kidman, NYFF '12