If you paid attention to the coverage of the Cannes Film Festival at all this summer, you may have heard about “that movie where Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron.” That film is Lee Daniels’s “The Paperboy,” and there isn’t much else to say about it. The director’s follow–up to Oscar–winning “Precious” is really just a barrage of disgust, ranging from the already–infamous urination sequence to entirely unnecessary sex, violence, profanity and gore.
The titular paperboy, Jack (played by Efron in a rare non–dreamboat role, although he does dance in the rain in tighty–whities) is really just a plot driver. His older brother, Ward (Matthew McConaughey, whose greasy hair is entirely un–1960s) is investigating the (possibly) wrongful murder conviction of Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack). Charlotte (Nicole Kidman) is the dumb/crazy blonde in love with Hillary via correspondence. It’s an already absurd set–up that the film only makes worse by piling more clichés on top of it. It moves at a snail’s pace through the investigation, while showcasing horrible characters doing horrible things, trying to convince us that it is realism rather than just depressing and gross.
The film deals in dichotomies and parallels, whether it is between white and black, rich and poor, poor and poorer, guilty and innocent, North and South and even British and American. But it’s not clear what is being said about the dualities though, other than that they exist and that there’s tension, which is something you learn about in the fifth grade. It’s not clear what the film is saying at all. Perhaps “The Paperboy” is tied too much to its source novel to branch out on its own. It simply gets muddled in a swamp of bad accents and racial stereotypes almost as thick as the swamps the characters themselves are forced to wade through.
Directed by Lee Daniels
Starring Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron,= and Matthew McConaughey