Nicole Kidman pees on the all-singing-all-dancing kid from High School Musical – what is the world coming to?
I knew nothing of The Paperboy when I stumbled into the dimly lit cinema on Saturday morning. I’d seen the poster and, judging by that, figured it featured a trashy Nicole Kidman and a sweaty, slightly less ‘pretty-boy’ version of Zac Efron. I was right on both counts, but I was hardly prepared for the depravity that followed.
The Paperboy takes viewers deep into the backwaters of steamy and sticky 1960s South Florida as reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) enlists the help of his innocent younger brother Jack (Zac Efron) and trashy death-row groupie (Nicole Kidman) to investigate the apparent innocence of inmate Hillary Van Wetter (played by an ‘icky’ John Cusack) who, despite his evil personality, is suspected to have been framed.
Directed by Oscar-winner Lee Daniels (Precious) and adapted from the 1995 award winning novel of the same name, it would be fair to expect great things from this film…hence why one can sometimes benefit from knowing nothing of a film prior to seeing it.
With no expectations I found myself enjoying what is a mostly intriguing film, with just enough of a sinister edge to keep your adrenaline up for it’s 1 hour 46 minute running time. It is an interesting exploration into the disturbing and profane depths of American society in the 1960s with a healthy sprinkling of questions and comments regarding gender, sexuality, race, identity and class.
The acting is pretty solid throughout with the accents usually convincing. McConaughey is as appealing as ever, and Zac Efron does well at giving us at least one likeable (and mostly moral) character to cling to.
Parts are uncomfortable (or downright disgusting) with some scenes perhaps trying a little too hard to be ‘bold’. Occasionally these segments result in a slightly confused audience as the scenes do little to advance the plot or character development in any way. They appear to have been included merely for shock value.
This has perhaps scared off the masses, with American box office performance poor, and critical response extremely divided: A fraction of critics bow down to the film’s bold and dirty exploration, while a significantly larger fraction appear to be highly offended.
As for me, do I feel there is a reason to walk away from the cinema affronted? Nope. Do I think it’s the best dirty entertainment since the sandpit? Again, nope.
It’s a good (but not great) film that sustains interest and an uneasy feeling of menace, whilst simultaneously making you raise your eyebrows or laugh in disgust and disbelief. (It also, at one certain part of the film, sparked the loudest audience reaction I have EVER witnessed which added to the fun: the entire cinema let out a collective gasp loud enough to drown out the surround sound. That’s always a good sign).
As someone who normally hates trash-centred films and wishes each lowly character would top themselves, I was pleasantly surprised to find The Paperboy pretty enjoyable. It’s on limited release so may not appear at your closest cinema, but if you’re keen on something a bit different, and are open to a bit of filth, it may be worth a trip further afield.
I rate it 6 out of 10 stars.
The Paperboy is released February 28th.