Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Under 250: The Paperboy

The character one-sheets for The Paperboy announce the film as, primarily, "sweaty" and "pulpy," and those two adjectives are right on the money.  The story is Southern Gothic by way of a dime store noir that's been left next to the toilet for prolonged bathroom reading. Lee Daniels, who last directed the gritty Precious, tries his hand at drawling, deep fried filth, and the results, honestly, are mixed.  Zac Efron heads up the ensemble cast as Jack Jansen, the film's straight-man.  Jack is a run-of-the-mill slacker. It's the 1960's, and the most exciting thing Jack can think of to do in his Florida town on most days is, well, to laze about and jerk off. All that changes when his big brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey), a reporter,  returns home to investigate a murder with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo).  Jack gets swept up in their mission, particularly once he realizes they're being assisted by the tawdry, hypersexual Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), a woman madly in love with the death row inmate (John Cusack) the team hopes to learn more about.  If you add to those various players a setting with a humidity index off the charts, cold blooded killin', conditions ripe for jellyfish stings and gator infestations, and a constant interest in having Kidman reenact the orgasmic screams of Satine's bourdoir flirtations, you get a good sense of the general timbre. That said, for all the pulp, The Paperboy's biggest problem is that it's just not that interesting.  It aims for baseness, trash, and camp, but it can't escape the hopes of somehow turning around the makings of a good-bad movie into a prestige picture.  Basically, it fails where Killer Joe succeeds: it takes itself too seriously, steps back when it shouldn't, and never gets its hands dirty enough to make something new. There's a glimmer, occasionally, of the film it could have been, but mostly The Paperboy is just too boring to...deliver.


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