Movie Review: THE PAPERBOY

Nicole Kidman as Charlotte in “The Paperboy”

Release date: October 5, 2012
Directed by: Lee Daniels
Written by: Peter Dexter
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, Macy Gray, Scott Glenn
Running Time: 107 minutes

It’s not just the Florida swamp that’s overheated. With the addition of Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy, a snarling, steaming potboiler roiling with racism and desire in a screwy small-town Swamplandia, swelter weather just got hotter.

As an off-kilter candidate for the main competition status at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, the film half-offended, half-delighted those in attendance. Offend? Nicole Kidman’s forty-something cougar urinating on Zac Efron’s pretty-boy face? Surely the celebrated film festival has seen far worse transgressions than this … hasn’t it?

Set in 1969, narrated by a longtime family housekeeper Anita (a marvelous Macy Gray), the story flashes back four years to the murder of a vitriolic sheriff in a small Florida town. The accused killer, John Cusack’s Hillary Van Wetter, is circling the drain as his final days on death row are dwindling down. Looking to uncover the truth about the crime and perhaps save the prisoner’s life in the process, Miami Times’ reporters Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) and his ambitious colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) travel to Jansen’s hometown of Lately, Florida to investigate … and if the reporters end up with a Pulitzer Prize for their efforts, no harm done.

However, the crime story is incidental to the nut-jobs running wild through the land of gators and guttings. Director Daniels focuses on Ward’s younger brother Jack (Zac Efron) who, returning home from a failed stint at college, falls in lust with convict fan-girl Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), fiancée to the imprisoned Van Wetter. Given the year and the location, racism is very much on parade, particularly in the guise of the Jansen brothers’ bigot father (Scott Glenn) who frequently spars with the African-American Yardley.

Though the plot falls apart by the third act, the characters are so ripe that the movie is like a pile-up on the interstate: You know you shouldn’t look, but you can’t help it.

[For the full review on doddle + rating, please click here]

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