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Dirty Daniels: 'The Paperboy's' Twisted Delivery

by Judi Jordan
September 28, 2012 12:31 PM
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It’s not often that a film can leave you in desperate need of a hot (not cold) shower, but director Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy does just that.

Daniels wants you to forget Precious, New York, noble intentions and anything urban… and indeed, here he succeeds.

All-star cast notwithstanding, seconds into his sour Southern nightmare, Daniels’ sharp city grit has been exchanged for the hazy, sluggish, and scaly underbelly of the ‘60’s white trash Everglades. Shot through what appears to be a Crisco-greased lens, the opening scene stars a big ole ‘gator, gutted symbolically, into your astonished face, bursting juicy intestines forth, sloshing, slithering and driving the hugely unsubtle metaphor home.

This is a strange place, a Florida filled with puzzling motivations, phony accents and nasty, dirty white folks with sleazy obsessions.

Imagine a world where Macy Gray is the most majestic member of the household and you begin to get a sense of how twisted this universe is.

Making Precious look like an over-achiever, Matthew McConaughey is an unkempt, masochistic, closeted gay writer determined to get to the bottom (every bun-pun intended) of a peculiar prison injustice.

A trampy Nicole Kidman is the way-too-willing bait.

John Cusack channels Harry Dean Stanton as the muff-mad, sweaty inmate-- Nicole’s jailbird admirer.

Zack Efron, inexplicably cast as Matt’s younger brother, is the namesake paperboy smitten with Kidman, whose unwarranted affections are lavished on Cusack’s kook.

David Oyelowo as a smarty-pants Negro author with a posh London accent and a mean streak, rounds out the confounding cast.

Possibly because so much of what happens is illogical and unwatchable, the camera justifiably feels hidden, like a peep-hole in a gas station restroom. If you like that freaky, perverted feeling of spying on an even bigger freak show, you will find this film both fascinating and horrible to watch; like a slow-mo replay of an Amtrak train slamming into an abandoned baby carriage.

Daniels has said that this film is not intended to ‘please’ audiences; but it begs the question: why make any film that is so deliberately unpleasant?

Surely no director can afford to snub his fans entirely after such a promising launch.

Much has been made of Nicole Kidman’s urination scene with Zack; but this is relatively mild compared to other acts in the film, so brace yourself; and don’t forget to bring them hand sanitizer towelettes, y’all.

LA Editor for Latino Leaders Magazine, Judi Jordan has written for The Hollywood Reporter, Backstage West, LA City News, Entertainment Today, Celebrity Weekly, Star, Latino Future, Gayot, Venice, at Latin Style as Editor at Large, Estylo as “Star Style” columnist, and Real Talk LA Magazine where she was Editor in Chief. She is also a screenwriter, director and producer with TV and film projects in development.

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  • Masha | October 13, 2012 5:34 PMReply

    I really liked the film. Go check it out for your self. People are entitled to say what they want, but Lee Daniels brings the best out of his actors, and he doesn't fail with this project. The film was not perfect of course, but it was far from what critics are writing all over the net.

  • other song | September 30, 2012 12:12 PMReply

    and people wonder why the audience is losing interest in films. It's so hard to find a director/writer these days that can come up with a compelling story and deliver it. No gimmicks. No bullshit hype. Just great storytelling, regardless of whether it's ninjas on a boat or neighbor strife

  • canmark | September 29, 2012 11:28 PMReply

    I saw The Paperboy at TIFF, and this review does sum it up well. The film's weakness is the source material--a book I could only make it half way through (boring and illogical). Stylistically, though, Lee Daniels works his magic and makes the film deliciously sordid, like something you would see through "a peep-hole in a gas station restroom," as you so eloquently put it. Goodness, I would not like to know any of these people in real life, but like white trash who engage in fistfights on Jerry Springer, sometimes a side order of tastelessness can be entertaining.

  • What? | September 28, 2012 5:12 PMReply

    (why make any film that is so deliberately unpleasant?) Who said the film was sooooo deliberately unpleasant... illogical and unwatchable? Oh, that's your opinion - right? It is a movie -- first and foremost -- so would you ask the same questions about horror films? Excuse me but isn't it different strokes for different folks. So that begs the question: Why would you say Lee Daniels snubbed his fans? That makes no sense what-so-ever.

  • Tamara | September 28, 2012 3:16 PMReply

    Moist towelettes! Getcha' moist towelettes right here! LOL Crisco-coated lens? *dead* The mention of Cusack channeling Harry Dean... One cannot simply channel Harry Dean must BE Harry Dean Stanton and only HE (Harry) can be that one. I still want to see this hot mess*. Thanks for the review.

  • Pointdexter | September 28, 2012 12:40 PMReply

    Well... Saw the trailer posted yesterday with Efron and Kidman parked in the car and I gotta channel m net Quentin Tarantino here - my oh my she has some suckable toes! I know Zack was like, "shoot, I need to improvise and begin munching on those toes!" Otherwise, all the hoopla has me very curious about this movie. Need to see it ASAP.

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