Nauseatingly heavy and not in the least bit pleasurable to watch, The Paperboy is the latest film from Lee Daniels (Precious), adapted from Peter Dexter’s novel. Set in 60s America, this is the story of a Miami reporter returning to his Florida hometown to investigate the case of an unjustly convicted murderer facing the death penalty. It’s hard-hitting and absolutely drenched in dark humour.
Reporter, Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey), delves into Van Wetter’s (John Cusack) case with the help of his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo – a black man sporting the smoothest of Bond-esque, British accents), kid brother Jack (Zac Efron), and the less than helpful Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman).
Daniels has achieved a very mixed bag with The Paperboy. For Efron this is his “coming of age” film; a solid role as the infatuated, motherless boy who is holding out for Charlotte’s affections. Kidman, on the other hand, plays Charlotte with such spunk that it is hard to recognise the demure actress beneath her Barbie exterior. McConaughey does conjure some brotherly charisma between his character and Efron’s, but Ward is such a deep and twisted character that the 2-D McConaughey doesn’t quite cut it.
Cusack plays van Wetter with unyielding conviction. The sex-starved villain has been writing and receiving letters from Bless, and has consequently become engaged to her. By the time Ward has completed his findings, however, his achievement has an unwanted outcome for everyone involved.
Narrating the film is R ‘n’ B singer Macy Gray, whose role as the Jansen’s tolerant maid, Anita, adds yet another dimension of disquiet to the picture. The overall effect from the narration, the up-close intimate camera work, and the 60s colour filter is very claustrophobic. Add it to the general dysfunction between the characters and the film becomes an uncomfortable mêlée of sex, racism, journalism and alligators.
The Paperboy deals with too many social taboos and uneasy situations for there to be any enjoyment gleaned from watching this film. There is very murky comedy laced within the storyline, but it does very little to alleviate the overall tension.
Not a film to be re-watched, The Paperboy sends its message loud and clear with a first time viewing.
The Paperboy is released nationwide on 15th March 2013.
Watch the trailer for The Paperboy here