Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Shailene Woodley Gets NSFW In 2 Clips From 'White Bird In A Blizzard' Plus New Pics Watch: Shailene Woodley Gets NSFW In 2 Clips From 'White Bird In A Blizzard' Plus New Pics TIFF Review: 'Cake' Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington & More TIFF Review: 'Cake' Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington & More First Look: Matthew McConaughey & Ken Watanabe In Gus Van Sant’s ‘Sea Of Trees’ First Look: Matthew McConaughey & Ken Watanabe In Gus Van Sant’s ‘Sea Of Trees’ Tom Hardy Says He'll Never Do Another Romantic Comedy Again Thanks To 'This Means War' Tom Hardy Says He'll Never Do Another Romantic Comedy Again Thanks To 'This Means War' David Fincher Apparently Thinks 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequel 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' Could Get Made David Fincher Apparently Thinks 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequel 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' Could Get Made Revisiting On The Rise: Where Are Our 2012 Picks Now? Revisiting On The Rise: Where Are Our 2012 Picks Now? Oscars: Dust Settles On The Fall Festivals With No Clear Best Picture Front-Runner (Yet) Oscars: Dust Settles On The Fall Festivals With No Clear Best Picture Front-Runner (Yet) Fall TV Preview: Our 22 Most Anticipated Shows For The Rest Of 2014 Fall TV Preview: Our 22 Most Anticipated Shows For The Rest Of 2014 Watch: NYFF Trailer Has Snippets Of ‘Inherent Vice’ Footage For Those Checking For Trailers Several Times A Day Watch: NYFF Trailer Has Snippets Of ‘Inherent Vice’ Footage For Those Checking For Trailers Several Times A Day TIFF Review: 'Still Alice' Starring Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin & Kate Bosworth TIFF Review: 'Still Alice' Starring Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin & Kate Bosworth Review: 'The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: Them' Starring Jessica Chastain & James McAvoy Review: 'The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: Them' Starring Jessica Chastain & James McAvoy Jason Reitman Calls ‘Labor Day’ "A Misguided Effort" Jason Reitman Calls ‘Labor Day’ "A Misguided Effort" David Fincher & James Ellroy Plotting 1950s Crime Noir Series For HBO David Fincher & James Ellroy Plotting 1950s Crime Noir Series For HBO Chris Evans On His Directorial Debut ‘Before We Go,’ Filming In New York, & ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ Chris Evans On His Directorial Debut ‘Before We Go,’ Filming In New York, & ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ Boardwalk Empire - Season 5 - Episode 1 Recap: “Golden Days For Boys & Girls” Boardwalk Empire - Season 5 - Episode 1 Recap: “Golden Days For Boys & Girls” The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: Lee Daniels' 'The Paperboy' With Matthew McConaughey & Nicole Kidman Is A Disastrous Flop

The Playlist By James Rocchi | The Playlist October 2, 2012 at 2:03PM

Many people will tell you that "The Paperboy" -- based on Pete Dexter's novel, brought to the screen by "Precious" director Lee Daniels -- is a trash masterpiece, an instant camp classic, so bad it's good. These people, these critics, are simply not to be trusted about any question of judgment for a long time based on that half-hearted ironic "endorsement" of one of the worst films of the year, never mind at Cannes. Like the patina on a bronze roof, there are two ways to acquire trashterpiece/camp/so-bad-it's-good status. One is through time, and patience, as entropy and erosion bring down the bright gleam to a more interesting set of colors and nuanced shades; the other is to spray it on artificially with a hose, with plenty of spillage and waste, toxic and cheap and jumped-up and unconvincing.
24
The Paperboy Zac Efron Matthew McConaughey Nicole Kidman David Oyelowo

Many people will tell you that "The Paperboy" -- based on Pete Dexter's novel, brought to the screen by "Precious" director Lee Daniels -- is a trash masterpiece, an instant camp classic, so bad it's good. These people, these critics, are simply not to be trusted about any question of judgment for a long time based on that half-hearted ironic "endorsement" of one of the worst films of the year, never mind at Cannes. Like the patina on a bronze roof, there are two ways to acquire trashterpiece/camp/so-bad-it's-good status. One is through time, and patience, as entropy and erosion bring down the bright gleam to a more interesting set of colors and nuanced shades; the other is to spray it on artificially with a hose, with plenty of spillage and waste, toxic and cheap and jumped-up and unconvincing.

Anyone lauding "The Paperboy" as some kind of new-school "Showgirls" or "Plan 9 From Outer Space" is doing the latter; they're also overlooking turning murder, rape and racism in the '60s South into a laughing matter, which is distasteful in its own way. Set in a swampy, Southern, sweaty, socially divided and sex-mad summer of '69, "The Paperboy" is overstuffed with too many plots and themes and then festooned with loose plot threads and laughable images sticking out of it; it's like a dead porcupine, bloated with rot in the sun. "The Paperboy," in short, makes "A Time to Kill" look like "To Kill a Mockingbird."

The Paperboy Matthew McConaughey Zac Efron

In 1969, a Florida town is caught up in the death of its sheriff; the culprit Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) languishes in jail on death row. But intrepid reporter -- and son of the local editor-in-chief -- Ward James (Matthew McConaughey) thinks that Van Wetter is innocent, bringing his black, British fellow journo Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo) back to his hometown with him to look into the case. Ward gets his kid brother Jack (Zac Efron) to drive for him -- and when Van Wetter refuses his interview requests, enlists Van Wetter's pen-pal would-be-lover Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) as the key to get in to see him.

Detailing the plot twists and turns of "The Paperboy" would not spoil it -- you cannot spoil what's already rancid -- but it's not necessary to do so. Daniels and cinematographer Roberto Schafer shoot everything to look like an Instagram photo set on some new yellow-muck filter called "Southern Scuzz," except for the shots of Ephron working his abs or swanning about sweaty and luxuriant like some American Eagle casualwear ad. It should also be noted that Daniels ends the film's sole consensual sex scene with a winking, folksy "I think we've seen enough of that …" from our narrator Macy Gray, (like some intercut from "The Dukes of Hazzard") but lets a rape, or near-rape, go on for what seems like hours so he can blend shots of the local wildlife, including a dead possum. You know, for symbolism, and stuff.

The Paperboy Nicole Kidman

This is not even mentioning the scene where Efron, stung by jellyfish, has Kidman protectively urinate on him in the name of first-aid. Or the laughable twist where a character has a hidden past that no one in their profession at that time would get away with. Or the fact that the relationship between Efron and Gray's maid character is phony and all too modern for the film's setting. Or how the script by Daniels and Dexter rides, in the memorable words of Steven Leacock, "madly off in all directions," with no coherency or constancy of plot, tone, character or direction. Or how our narrator is first subjective, then omniscient, and then absent, the sure sign of a rank amateur. The classic question of bad movies is "Who wrote this shit?" But we know the answer to that, usually, up in the credits in bold shameless type. What "The Paperboy" demonstrates all too well is that the better question to ask of a bad movie is "Who read this shit and thought any good could come of it, whether stars or crew or producers or distributors?" "Precious" had its admirers and detractors and some who were split down the middle; I thought it was a well-acted, overdone bit of kitchen-sink drama that really blew the lid off the social crises of the Reagan era. "The Paperboy," though, is something else entirely -- a lurid, florid, humid, flaccid and insipid waste of time and money for the audience and for everyone who made it. [F]

This is a reprint of our review from the Cannes Film Festival.

This article is related to: The Paperboy, Review, Lee Daniels, Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, John Cusack, Matthew McConaughey


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates