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Review: The Paperboy

March 8, 2013

Film + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia


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Academy Award-winning actress Nicole Kidman returns to the big screen reinvented with a new image that would leave even the strongest of men weak at the knees.  After the critical and box office success of the hard-hitting film Precious (2009), Lee Daniels returns to direct his most outlandishly bold, sexy but art-trash thriller film yet, The Paper Boy. A dark twisted yet compelling mystery film, that is erotic to the point it sits sexually on par with the works of French cinema. Based on Pete Dexter’s novel the film tells the story of one women’s journey to free a convicted Death Row inmate which turns bitter.

1969, Moat County, Florida, a county sheriff is stabbed to death and dragged for a mile where he’s left with his intestine spattering out of his belly. Daniels use of a mix of colour, black and white and spilt screens as a mode of flashback as Anita (Macy Gray) recollects the events that are The Paperboy.  The opening music composed by Mario Grigorov creates a sense of early mystery and an unprecedented level of anxiety soon boils and progressively becomes rather harrowing as the whistle resonates over the narration.  The tone soon shifts and we are introduced to Jack Jansen (Zac Efron) who lays in his boxer shorts looking at a ring that belonged to his mother before Anita walks in on him. Jack is presented as a young adult who is carefree and Daniel adds depth to his character through the use of playful role-play with Anita, developing a fond relationship at a time were racism is at its height. The opening moves at a relatively quick pace, introducing each character before quickly moving to the next. Anita’s voiceover introduces us to Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) briefly telling us about her appetite for men in the penitentiary. Miami Times reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) returns to Florida with Yardley (David Oyelowo) employed by Charlotte as her Paperboys to investigate Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) and to do what is necessary to free him.

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Sharon Stone once famously crossed her legs in Basic Instinct (1992) but Kidman notches it up a gear as she arouses Hillary, a scene uncomfortable to watch as it would have been for her to have filmed. The film dares to be bold and choose not to whitewash racism and homosexuality but rather embrace it and it is this that puts the art into trashy. The twists and turns that the film takes though not imminently predicable are somewhat cliché Hollywood. The twisted climax is powerful, nerve-racking and puts the thrill back into thriller, despite being excessively dragged out and somewhat disappointing with little restoration of equilibrium.

The Paperboy is a daring film for it breaks way from conventions and champions a more liberal approach to film context and its censorship by the overtly strict regulatory body MPAA; perhaps it is Daniels efforts that will drive towards changing viewer’s attitudes of eroticism in mainstream Hollywood.

Rehan Yasin.

The Paperboy is released in the UK Friday 15th March.