The Paperboy * * * 1/2

20130327-140752.jpg

Director: Lee Daniels.
Screenplay: Pete Dexter, Lee Daniels.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, Macy Gray, David Oyelowo, Scott Glenn, Ned Bellamy, Nealla Gordon, Gary Clarke, Faison Love, Grace Hightower.

After his Oscar winning film “Precious“, which was an adaptation of Sapphire’s novel “Push“, director Lee Daniels decides to follow that up with another adaptation. This time it’s the 1995 novel “The Paperboy” by Pete Dexter and another exploration of highly dysfunctional personalities.

Naive reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) heads back to his home town of Lately, where he’s determined to exonerate convict Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack), who awaits execution on death row for the supposed murder of a local Sheriff. Ward is accompanied by his brother Jack (Zac Efron), ambitious colleague Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo) and flashy seductress Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) – who has a fetish for incarcerated men and Van Wetter is her latest obsession. The murky details of the investigation soon uncover truths about everyone involved and truths that were better left alone.

This is a film that’s very much a mixed bag and it’s easy to see why some people just didn’t take to it. First off, the narrative is disjointed. At times, it doesn’t seem know to which direction it’s going in and the tacked-on, voiceover narration, doesn’t really help matters. In the earlier part there’s humour and it gives the impression that it’s got it’s tongue stuck firmly in it’s cheek. As the film and characters grow, though, it becomes progressively darker. So much so, that it will having you wincing in both disgust and horror. These shifts in tone are less than effortless and also threaten to undo the film as a whole. However, even though the tone is uneven it’s throws up many memorable moments; Kidman urinating on Efron’s face, Cusack and Kidman engaging in masturbation while 10 feet apart and other brutal and shocking revelations, which I’ll allow you to find out for yourself. It’s in these memorable moments that you realise where the film’s strengths lie; the characters are all three dimensional and the brave cast are uniformly brilliant. Efron has come a long way since his “High School Musical” days and looks like proper leading actor material; McConaughey continues his recent run of seedy and risquΓ© roles; Cusack captures the intensity of a loutish psychopath and Kidman is a revelation as an oversexed floozie. Fine support is also delivered by a surprisingly talented Macy Gray and the enigmatic David Olywewo. It’s the very commitment from these actors that has you believing in the material even when their characters’ motivations are not always clear or convincing. Another big player in the proceedings is cinematographer Roberto Schaefer. He captures the searing heat and uncomfortableness of backwoods Florida to perfection while balancing the class divide and racial tension that drips from every pore.
Daniels’ direction may be a little hyperstylised at times and his grasp on the film’s structure is less than convincing. Incoherence does creep in and the film sags around the midriff, becoming in danger of losing itself entirely. At one point, when it should be wrapping up, it throws in further complications and character developments but to give the director his due, he knows how to drop subtle hints without revealing too much, leaving the story’s denouement more satisfying than first thought. There’s no doubt that this is a flawed endeavour but the scathing opinions of it are a little unwarranted – all-be-it, understandable. There is much to admire here. Yes, it’s trashy, tawdry and most certainly deranged but it’s also edgy and unpredictable, which is more than you can say for a lot of studio releases these days.

Sexploitation, exploitation and telekinetic masturbation. What more can you can ask from a film that doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a deranged venture into the American south with a committed cast that are game for anything?
This might have been booed at the Cannes film festival but for it’s trashy audacity alone, it deserves applause.

Mark Walker

20130327-140822.jpg

Advertisements

58 Responses to “The Paperboy * * * 1/2”

  1. Great review Mark. I definitely agree that the performances outshine the slightly rickety story. I did also really enjoy the cinematography and the whole setting of the film, it was perfectly sweaty and grimey. Not a classic by any means but not the car crash some have said it is.

    Like

    • Thanks Chris. Yeah, I took quite a bit from this film and considered giving it another 1/2 star. It was the disjointed narrative that prevented me but the performances were absolutely outstanding. Top calibre stuff. It’s a shame it’s been criticised as heavily as it has been. It’s not entirely fair.

      Like

      • Fantastic review Mark, you really have a way with words! As I’ve told Chris though, this film (and also Killer Joe) is not for me. I’m just not interested in it, to be honest, and I’m pretty sure I would not enjoy it. I’m sure the performances are great, though I don’t think I’ll be missing out not seeing it. I hope you don’t mind me saying that.

        Like

      • I don’t mind that at all Ruth. I always appreciate your honesty and I appreciate that this film is certainly not for everyone. I don’t know what it says about me but I enjoy a bit of depravity now and again. LOL. I enjoy off-beat films that dare to go that extra length. Much like Killer Joe in it’s shocking moments, I now wonder if McConaughey has went on an absolute mission to change his image. If that’s his intention, then it’s definitely working.

        Like

      • It’s possible that Matthew wants to shed his image as the rom-com King. I sure hope GB won’t start doing the same these days.

        I don’t mind off-beat films but this one seems to be too *out there* for my liking. Thanks for understanding Mark.

        Like

      • I think that the rom-com King mantle he’s established has been smashed to bits in three or four films. I honestly can’t see Butler doing the same roles that mcConaghey has been brave enough to challenge but he has to do something and do it quick. McConaghey is great example of how to do it though. I admire the choices he has made. It’s takes a lot of guts to do what he’s doing right now and I can’t wait to see what he delivers next. I never thought I’d hear myself say that about him. πŸ˜‰

        Like

  2. Interesting. I thought the trailer looked good but couldn’t buy in to actually renting it. Now that I’ve finally read something about it – I’m in!

    Thanks Mucker!

    Like

  3. You and Terry Malloy from the Pigeon Coop have to be two of the only people on Earth who can even stand The Paperboy. Sometimes everyone is right, the movie is pure garbage (and that may be an insult to garbage). Wish I was at Cannes so I could have booed too. Sorry.

    Like

    • Haha! Well… I’m sorry to hear that. πŸ˜‰ To each their own, of course, but I thought the performances were outstanding and some of the plot revelations packed a real punch. Granted, it was all over the place at times but it wasn’t a complete right-off. Any film that leaves me thinking about it, long after I’ve viewed it is still in my cool book. Thanks for commenting, though. It always nice to hear new opinions. πŸ™‚

      Like

    • It does sound like we’re a two man band on this one Mark! I still only gave it 3 stars though, so hardly singing its praises. But I thought it was a film that its performances were too good for its story, but still held my attention all the way through.

      Like

      • Yeah, three’s a crowd Chris. Sati was also an admirer. She gave it the same rating as me. I really think a lot of people are being overly critical of this one. You’re right though, the performances were too good for the story but it still had enough going for it. It’s not the stinker that many see it as. 😦

        Like

  4. Good review Mark. It’s a pretty crazy movie, but still keeps itself grounded by the great performances of this cast.

    Like

    • Cheers Dan. Everyone of the actors were excellent. I’m completely taken aback why Kidman didn’t receive any awards recognition here. At least a nomination should have been thrown her way. It’s one of her finest (and bravest).

      Like

  5. ray brayne Says:

    Without Kidman this film is a total waste. All the camera tricks, deep focus, out of focus, quick cut scenes, can’t help. It just looked cheap. Cusack just seemed as phony as his accent. Lots of things stood out like sore thumbs. What’s with the narration. I swear she said something like “Now pay attention this is important”, right, because I was asleep at that point.
    From scene one, I knew this whole mess would end up in the Everglades with the gators, it had nowhere else to go. Without Kidman’s orgasm and urination scenes, no one would have talked about this, except to “white” trash it!

    Like

    • Your comment here seems to sum up the opinion of many Ray. I didn’t find it looked cheap at all, to be honest. Granted, Daniels’ direction was off. His cuts and the rest where all a bit too stylish for the films own good and the narration was rather abysmal and unnecessary. That being said, I thought the performances from everyone were great (including Cusack) but there’s no doubt that this is Kidman’s movie. I did get a bit lost with some plot developments and I don’t think thats because they were hard to follow but because they didn’t deliver them properly. However, with all it’s flaws (and there are a few) I still really enjoyed it.

      Like

  6. Solid review as always Mark! I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about this one which has kept me at a distance. I have also heard it has a few interesting elements to it.

    Like

    • Cheers Keith. I’m in the minority on this it would seem but it has to be seen regardless. There are certainly a few interesting and surprising elements to it which made it worth while for me. Them and the actors.

      Like

      • Nothing wrong with that buddy. That’s one of the great things about movies – how the impact different people differently. That’s also one reason I love reading different people’s perspectives.

        Like

      • Thats exactly it, man. In all honesty I haven’t read much on this but anything I have, it’s been pounded into the dirt. LOL

        Like

  7. It’s a hot mess, there’s no doubt about it. But as you say, at least the cast is committed. There’s some performances here that might be worth shifting through the rubble…

    Like

    • A hot mess you say? Lol.
      I liked it, man. Flawed but still very interesting. It’s one of those films that will take a bit of a beating but somebody somewhere will find something to like about. I happen to be that somebody πŸ˜‰

      Like

  8. From what I’ve read, I’m not really sure if I’d like this, but I just might give it a go sometime soon anyway. Excellent review, Mark!

    Like

    • I wasn’t sure if I would either, man, but I like off-beat movies that take risks and certainly does that. Nobody takes more risks than Kidman here, though. She’s worthy of the attention alone. Cheers Garrett.

      Like

  9. I keep hearing mixed reviews on this one. Nice write-up, I’m not too sure if I’ll see this though.

    Like

    • More people hate this film than not and I happen to be one that didn’t hate it. That being said, it’s certainly not for everyone. It’s no classic so you wouldn’t be missing much on that front but you be missing out on some of the most shocking (and memorable) scenes all year.

      Like

  10. Like I commented on another site…I watch the interview in the beginning then I slowly lose interest. Tried to watch this 3 times already. I’ll give it another go.

    Like

    • Three times? Maybe you should give up, man. πŸ˜‰ That happened with me when I was watching the film “Hanna”. I tried and tried and when I eventually got through it, I realised it was a piece of shit. LOL. Sometimes this is a sign πŸ˜‰

      Like

  11. OK, I’ve finally been convinced. I’ve been sitting on the fence about this one for ages but I reckon I’ll now give it a go!

    Like

    • Don’t expect great things and you just might come away with something. It definitely has it’s problems but still a very memorable flick. I’d be interested to hear what you think. Thanks man.

      Like

  12. Maybe I should add this to my list simply because I’ve never seen a film featuring telekinetic masturbation. πŸ˜› How can I go to my grave without rectifying that??

    Seriously, this sounds like a unique and interesting albeit flawed movie. I’m on the fence about whether trashy audacity is a good thing πŸ™‚ But I am intrigued.

    Like

    • I didn’t even know telekinetic masturbation even existed but it does here and it’s hilariously, and very uncomfortably, played out by Kidman and Cusack. It’s a brilliant scene and one that I won’t be forgetting for a long time. For this scene alone, this is worth checking out.

      Like

  13. hmmmm this one was really not on my radar previously

    Like

  14. I really liked the movie, gave it the same score as you did, since there were some problems with the script. I really liked the performances and the atmosphere built with great choices of songs, cinematography and editing.

    Like

    • Finally! Another person with something positive to say. LOL.
      Thanks Sati. I’m glad you took something from it as well. I thought the performances were outstanding and everything else you mention was in place also. It’s a shame it had structural issues though, as this could (and should) have been a lot tighter. Still, I really enjoyed it.

      Like

  15. Matthew McConaughey – check! John Cusack – Check! a still hot looking nicole kidman – check!
    enough for me to watch right there πŸ˜‰

    Like

  16. Hi, I’ve just come across your blog (since I recently started one of my own) and I liked your review. I totally agree that, in its way, it’s a lot more interesting than most studio releases, even if it doesn’t always totally work as a film. I was maybe a little harsh in my own rating of it, but The Paperboy has style and it has good performances, and you can do a lot worse than that in a film.

    Like

    • Hey there Ewan! Thanks for dropping by and commenting. You’re always welcome here my friend. Glad to hear your a new blogging customer. Anything I can help you with, just ask.

      Yeah, most people didn’t like this film but you have to admire it’s chutzpah. πŸ˜‰
      How many times are you going to see Nicole Kidman readily urinate on Efron and that’s just the start of it. Structurally, it was a bit messy but I kept with it and it had many positive points to it.

      Like

  17. Nice write up as always Mark πŸ™‚

    Like

  18. I’m gonna have to check this one out, it just sounds too weird for me not to see! Great review, Mark πŸ™‚

    Like

    • It certainly has a different way of going about things Georgina. At times shocking but also possesses a sense of humour (in the early stages). You might not like it, as many people don’t but it’s still got to be seen.

      Like

  19. Great review, man! Looks like this would a perfect companion piece to Killer Joe! hehe

    Like

    • Thats excatly it Fernando. Its not as good as Killer Joe but McConaughey is certainly going for it these days. There’s a scene in this involving him that almost as shocking as “that” scene in KJ.

      Like

  20. […] The Paperboy * * * 1/2 […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: