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. www.linkedin.com/in/judijordan