May 22, 2012 at 3:03 pm #62525
Call me excited for Kidman here! Lee has a god start with his film’s supporting actress, so she can squeeze a Golden Globe nom here.May 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm #62526
Reminds me of Shadowboxer in its look and use of music.May 22, 2012 at 6:21 pm #62527
As I posted in the “Nicole Kidman” thread–this film looks seriously trashy. Maybe Nicole has been spending too much time in Tennessee? Ick.May 25, 2012 at 7:46 am #62529
Cannes: ‘The Paperboy,’ starring Zac Efron and Nicole Kidman, proves that ‘Precious’ director Lee Daniels needs some common sense to go with his talent
When you hear about a movie that gets booed at the Cannes Film Festival, you tend to picture a monolithic thumbs-down chorus, like an ancient arena crowd turning on a gladiator. Actually, that’s not how it works. There is almost always at least some polite applause after film festival showings, so the boos, when they do happen, tend to be mixed in with clapping. That’s the sound I heard this morning when the closing credits rolled on Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy. And, in fact, that sound expressed my own feelings exactly. I wanted to do a catcall and clap encouragingly at the same time.
The Paperboy, a tale of homicide, hot-and-bothered sex, and rattlesnake-mean racism set in a small Florida town in 1969, is Daniels’ first film since Precious: Based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (2009), and since I’d hated Daniels’ first film as a director, Shadowboxer, and loved Precious, the question I had going into this movie is: Was Precious a fluke, or did Daniels, who’d been best known as a producer, have a major sensibility as a filmmaker? My short answer is: He does. The Paperboy is based on a Pete Dexter murder mystery, but it’s very much in the stark and plain, deliberately ramshackle and stripped down mode of Precious. I’m not just talking about a look, either. I’m talking about atmosphere, the corroded and even cruddy authenticity that says, “This is a movie that doesn’t pretty things up.” Daniels shoots lower-middle-class Southern living rooms and offices, and the people in them, the way they really looked in 1969 — the bad paneling and worn Formica, the fried chicken a little too greasy in its plastic tub, the period hair and eyeshadow that doesn’t scream, “Look at this period hair and eyeshadow!” He also captures the sleepy, lackadaisical, humidity-clogged rhythms of the South in the pre-media-clatter age. And also the precise way that a small-town Florida citizen in 1969 might have slipped the word “n—-r” into the conversation. Next to this movie, The Help looks about as naturalistic as a kabuki performance.
Daniels wants to show us realities that other movies don’t, and I truly think that he’s got the talent and drive to do it. But there’s a downside to that impulse. If what happens on screen is in any way odd or exaggerated or, even worse, if it defies common sense, the clang of falseness is going to be deafening.
And that’s what happens, increasingly, as The Paperboy goes on. Ward James (Matthew McConaughey), a reporter for The Miami Times, has come back to his hometown to investigate what may be a bum murder rap. A big dumb redneck lug, very well played by — I kid you not — John Cusack, has been convicted of knifing to death a nasty local sheriff. He’s scheduled to be executed, but the community at large, it seems, liked the sheriff — the implication is that most of the locals endorsed his racist ways — and, somehow tied to this, the murder rap may have been a frame-up. Ward is joined by Yardley (David Oyelowo), a black reporter from the paper who speaks like a British gentleman (a little later, we learn why — which is one of the movie’s first over-the-top moments), and has a kind of saintly-controlled Sidney Poitier vibe.
Then there’s Ward’s little brother, Jack (Zac Efron), a 20-year-old ex-swimmer and professional lazybones who lives at home, delivers bundles of newspapers, and has no desire to do anything else (Efron nails this ’60s Florida jock-going-to-seed, though he should have tried for more of a drawl). And there’s the woman standing on the sidelines yet, somehow, at the center of everything: Charlotte Bless, the local nympho and aging Southern belle — a cliché played with a surprise spark of frisky neurotic conviction by Nicole Kidman. Charlotte has fallen in lust with Cusack’s prisoner, and Efron’s horndog is in lust with her. And that’s all I’m going to reveal about what happens in The Paperboy, since the less said about the plot the better.
The line on this movie in Cannes is the same one that a lot of critics, including me, took on Daniels’ Shadowboxer: that it’s so luridly overripe it’s nuts — or, at the very least, high camp. Certainly, you’re going to have that feeling during the scene when Kidman, at the beach, saves Efron from a jellyfish sting by urinating on him — which is an anti-jellyfish home remedy, but the way the scene is shot, I think Daniels had something else in mind. The wrong notes, the extremeness, just piles up from there. Precious had the benefit of an enormously compassionate, ingenious, and disciplined screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher (who won the Academy Award for it). The script of The Paperboy, by Daniels and Dexter, is a metastasizing mess. Yet I also think that there’s something a little over-the-top in the critical snorts of damnation for The Paperboy. Daniels, I’d venture to say, should never be his own screenwriter. But if he can find good scripts, and (as in Precious) overcome his penchant for letting common sense slip away, I still believe he has the talent as a director to make major movies.May 25, 2012 at 9:29 am #62530
Yikes! I think if its being compared more towards his production Shadowboxer than Precious, we can probably rule out any awards. Still nee more reviews though. Being booed at Cannes?!May 25, 2012 at 6:12 pm #62531
Yeah booed at the Press Screening. Of course, it’s different during the Gala Screening because the actors are there.May 25, 2012 at 7:36 pm #62532
That EW review makes it sound fabulous. Shadowboxer was absolutely terrible, but there are still scenes from it that I remember and laugh. I hope Paperboy can be more of the same.May 25, 2012 at 10:37 pm #62533
That EW review makes it sound fabulous. Shadowboxer was absolutely terrible, but there are still scenes from it that I remember and laugh. I hope Paperboy can be more of the same.
Terrible but funny? Sounds like your wish will be granted.
PS: What part of southern racism is funny?May 26, 2012 at 9:37 am #62534
Cannes officials report that The Paperboy had the longest ovation of any film in competition at its gala screening.
All films have their directors and stars in attendance, so this would indicate a sincere favorable reaction.May 26, 2012 at 10:14 am #62535
Must be Zac Efron in his “tighty-whities”? As reported by The Huffington Post:
Co-Founder and Managing Editor of The Film Stage
Cannes Review 2012: The Paperboy
Posted: 05/24/2012 7:28 pm
[Millenium Entertainment ; 2012]
Director: Lee Daniels
Runtime: 107 minutes
Operating on a level of ridiculousness so high it suggests possible intention, Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy
is a trash pile packed high, high and higher still. Adapted from the
Pete Dexter novel of the same name and set in swampy Florida in 1969,
the film stars Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron as Ward and Jack James,
a pair of brothers out to prove the innocence of one Hillary Van Wetter
(a sweaty John Cusack), a man sitting on death row for slaughtering the
local town sheriff. Van Wetter’s got a pen-pal girlfriend named
Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) determined he be freed from jail.
Charlotte, who has been flirting with all of the prison boys, decides
that Hillary is the one she loves. Likewise, when Jack meets Charlotte,
he is immediately head-over-heels devoted to her.
As far as synopsis goes, let’s just stop there. There is so much
jumbled and spit out of this hot, strange, sloppy mess of a film that it
would be a sin of sorts to spoil it all, if those reading decide it’s
still worth a watch. Daniels shot into the stratosphere of filmmaking
credibility with his last film Precious, garnering plenty of
Oscar nominations and even a couple of wins (for Adapted Screenplay and
Best Supporting Actress). To be sure, The Paperboy will elicit no nominations of any kind.
Whether intended or not by Daniels, this film is ham and cheese.
Consider a sequence in which Efron’s Jack decides to swim at the beach,
after Charlotte’s made him angry for some such reason. While swimming,
Jack is attacked by jellyfish to the point of unconsciousness, barely
making it back to the sand. Suffering from the poison, Kidman’s
Charlotte is forced to urinate on him. As one would be, of course.
There are constant narrative ends, both split and dead, that occur
and then are completely forgotten. Macy Gray’s maid character Anita
opens the film in the middle of an interrogation of sorts, serving as
the bookend of the narrative. Her voice-over throughout is obvious and
unnecessary, only adding to the absurdity of the whole thing. At one
point, Anita becomes the omniscient narrator, talking directly to the
audience. Any suggestion or indication that this will become a running,
all-knowing commentary is tossed to the wind as Anita, and her voice,
all but disappear from the picture.
Many subplots and ideas are tossed in and then thrown right back out
all over the course of the proceedings, most of them offensive,
intriguing and admittedly entertaining. This is an early Todd Haynes
film with more camp and far less intelligence, both technically and
conceptually. Aesthetically, Daniels is all over the place. While some
of the film is shot to look like a washed-out melodrama, other scenes
read like a Southern gothic thriller.
That said, there is no doubt this bewildering, cinematic beast will
find a small, devoted audience in due time. It has all the trappings of a
cult classic. Cusack, to his credit, is clearly enjoying playing the
furthest away “against type” can get, along with Kidman, who struts,
swoons and pouts with more glee than we’ve seen from her in some time.
And hey, for those who like Mr. Efron, he’s in his tighty-whities a
whole lot. As far as his acting abilities go, the jury remains out. It’s
quite unfair to wholly criticize the young man for something like this.
Overall Grade: CMay 26, 2012 at 10:47 am #62536
Normally you decide in advance that you approve of films made by gay directors with a gay sensibility. Why not this time?
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