sat 24/02/2024

The Paperboy | reviews, news & interviews

The Paperboy

The Paperboy

Nicole Kidman files for moral bankruptcy in a sweat-soaked neo-noir from director Lee Daniels

The lady makes for a terrific tramp: Nicole Kidman gives it plenty of wanton welly in 'The Paperboy'

You wait years for another interesting Nicole Kidman film and then two come along at once. Two weeks ago it was the elegantly malevolent Stoker and now here's sweaty, shameless noir The Paperboy. It's a film that takes Zac Efron's squeaky clean reputation and quite literally pisses all over it.

Or more accurately Kidman does, since Lee Daniels' follow-up to Precious features a sequence where the Oscar winner urinates on the jellyfish-stung star of High School Musical. A tawdrily entertaining tale, shot through with youthful lust and romantic delusion, The Paperboy might not deserve to be known for that sequence alone, but I suspect an awareness of it will help ease bums onto seats.

The Paperboy is adapted from the book of the same name by author Pete Dexter, alongside director Daniels. It's narrated by the baby-voiced Anita Chester (a sensitive performance from singer Macy Gray), who - as the film opens - is being interviewed for her version of the events surrounding a murder. Anita's mind drifts back to 1969 when she was in the employ of the Jansen family in Lately, Florida. The family comprises local newspaper editor W W Jansen (Scott Glenn) and his sons, 20-year-old Jack (Efron, pictured below right with Matthew McConaughey) and his considerably older brother Ward (McConaughey), a Pulitzer prize- winning journalist for the Miami Times.

Ward returns home with the scent of a story in his nostrils and with Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo), a sneering English colleague, in tow. He's been tipped-off by prison groupie Charlotte Bless (Kidman) who's been corresponding with a man on death row that she believes to be innocent and, furthermore, intends to marry. That man is Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack at his most morally and physically dishevelled), a white-trash, career criminal who's seemingly been framed for the murder of much-loathed local sheriff, Thurmond Call (Danny Hanemann).

Efron is a serially bland performer but he's well cast as Jack, a near-jailbait Adonis who pouts and swims à la Alain Delon in La Piscine. Jack is seen reading Lolita but it's Kidman's in-your-face, hanging-on-in-there sexuality that packs the punch here. Charlotte is a woman who's been chewed up and spat out by a thousand criminals but - as played by Kidman and viewed through Jack's smitten eyes - she's a goddess. Jack is a boy whose abandonment issues and ripe sexuality combine to magnetise him toward what Yardley describes starkly as "a 40-year-old woman who's obsessed with prison cock."

Kidman goes (spectacularly) for broke, bringing to the table a manipulative sexuality we haven't seen at full pelt since Gus Van Sant's To Die For. Hers is a terrific, fearless, even poignant performance. Also striking a surprisingly heartrending note is McConaughey, who's something of an indie darling again. After formidable turns in Magic Mike and Killer Joe, it's almost a surprise to find him in a film where he's not the alpha sleazebag - that would be an exceptionally vile Cusack.

The Paperboy isn't a focused thriller and the mystery element may well leave you unsatisfied. Yet there's something genuinely touching about Jack's infatuation with Charlotte (along with his relationships with Ward and Anita) and the film packs an emotional wallop in its dying hours. As with Precious, Daniels proudly sticks his lot in with the reviled over the revered. The Paperboy might stumble like a drunk but there's plenty to relish in this salty Southern thriller that's dripping with sin.

Watch the trailer for The Paperboy

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Charlotte is a woman who's been chewed up and spat out by a thousand criminals but - viewed through Jack's smitten eyes - she's a goddess


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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