The Paperboy

The Paperboy was booed in Cannes; it got no Oscar nominations, no Golden Globe, and no other so called prizes from the self-appointed cinephile community: This must finally be a movie worth watching. It turns out to be one of those movies where you have to make a decision after seeing it. It is either terribly, terrifyingly good; or it is atrociously, abysmally bad. There is no grade in between for this cinematic work. What it does in either case is tell you everything about America you ever needed to know.


Zac Efron

The film claims to be based on the novel The Paperboy by Pete Dexter. That is where the similarities end. Once you got over that illusion, you can start enjoying what Lee Daniels has dreamed up for you. It is exceedingly funny, as long as you don’t live in or plan to move to the United States. Laughter might get stuck in your throat if either is the case.

There is Hillary van Wetter (John Cusack), a creepy cop killer on death row. His aim is to get out of there no matter how or by what means. His key to possible freedom is Charlotte. Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) is an over-aged Barbie doll peroxide blond cosmetics advert. If you have problems imagining it, just think of Nicki Minaj. Needy and stubborn, she first decides that Hillary is the love of her life, and then decides that because of this he must be innocent.

To prove his innocence, she connives with Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey), local boy turned journalist in need of a scoop, to prove Hillary’s innocence. While he digs for gold dust, his colleague Yardley Acheman (David Oyewolo) should turn that into journalistic nuggets. Frustratingly for Ward, the only access he can gain to Hillary is through the fantastically unreliable and unrestrained Charlotte.

To make matters worse, the trio at large hire Ward’s younger brother Jack (Zac Efron) as a driver. Jack is a college drop out with nothing to do. He spends the film showing off his underwear, mooning after Charlotte and acting out sex scenes that never happen. His obvious crush on Charlotte amuses her no end, though.

Perversely, the narrator in the movie is Anita (Macy Gray), the African-American maid of the Jansen’s. She misses at least half of what is going on, and has a crush on Jack.

The film shows a bunch of people who have nothing to do, no aim, no purpose, other than killing time during an over-long summer in a sleepy town. The total self-centeredness of the characters is astounding and gives the comical build up the impetus. None of them cares for any of the others except in the context of me-me-me.

Lee Daniels manages to transport the crudeness of their personalities (as far as you can talk of personalities with people like that) directly into the film. His directing produced a crude, glaring, colourful movie that seems somehow to lack a real story and a real aim. It is this obvious handling of the material that makes the film exceptional, as the film mimics the characters in their lack of basic humanity. And that is where the decision must be made, is it glaringly good or staring at you in all its emptiness?

Further reading:
Zac Efron Reinvented
Magic Mike for Testosterone Hunters

Merlin


Zac Efron


Zac Efron


Zac Efron


Zac Efron


Zac Efron


Zac Efron


Zac Efron