t h e  p a p e r b o y

the paperboy 2.jpg

15th March 2013

Lee Daniels

Nicole Kidman's Hair

107 Minutes



24th March 2013








I tweeted when I had drunk enough of my pint to recover from The Paperboy that I felt grubby having watched it and not in a good way. I stand by this comment. My overwhelming feeling about this film is one of not feeling clean. And I’m no closer to being sure whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. I’d tend towards the latter but that’s not to say the film isn’t without merit.

This half of Broken Shark was a big fan of Daniels’ previous work, Precious, the other half not so much. Something chimed in that film, it was brutally, unrelentingly depressing, yet I came out of it feeling better for having seen it. It left me with a sense of hope. The Paperboy pulls off no such trick.

Partly narrated by Macy Gray (who is no Mariah Carey - you don’t hear that very often), the film tells the utterly sordid tale of a pair of brothers, one a journalist, the younger a sometime swimmer now loafer, who for reasons that are never entirely explained head back to their home town to investigate the case of an inmate on death row. Kidman plays the middle-aged, convict addicted, siren who apparently inspires this foolhardy errand and there is a faux-English black man in their somewhere, presumably to highlight the racial tensions of the time.

Everything about the picture is grubby. Florida is hot and sweaty and grubby. Zac Effron’s character is young and has grubby thoughts. McConaughey’s character has a very grubby sex life. Kidman is shiny like a Barbie doll on the outside but is into very grubby men. John Cusack even crops up as the inmate who may or may not have gutted the grubby local sherif. He too is literally grubby. The whole thing makes you want to shower. A lot.

So why do I hold back from condemning it completely? It is not without it’s intrigue. I quite enjoyed the fact that nobody is who they seem. There isn’t a person here without a dirty secret, with the possible exception of Gray’s housekeeping character. And nobody seems to have the first idea what they are doing or why, which is either nicely realistic or a criticism of a muddled script. I have no idea which to be honest.

It’s played well, Effron is stepping up well from his High School Musical days and with choices like this, there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to grow as an impressive screen presence. HIs character's abandonment issues with his mother and subsequent relationship with Kidman's character is one of the more intriguing parts of the film. Kidman has played sirens before but she brings an impressively sleazy side to the party here, though her inmate obsession is never satisfactorily explained. And it's well shot, the grimy heat of the swamps and surrounding areas is compounded by some genuinely icky images (if you're a fan of alligators, maybe give this one a miss) adding the the overall sense of nothing being at all clean.

In the end the result comes across as a weird collision of Wild Things (which we love), Deliverance and well, we’re not sure but something really grubby. I’m not sure I can really recommend this film and I have a suspicion it’s probably not going to make a huge splash at the box office as I can’t really imagine who the audience would be. Well, I can imagine, I just don’t want to be in the same room as them. You know what, it’s probably worth a look for Effron alone. Or if you desperately feel the need to see Kidman pissing on Effron's face. But maybe wait for the DVD.

Check out The Paperboy trailer here. 

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