The Paperboy | Directed by Lee Daniels
Release Date: 2012 | Rating: R
Run Time: 1hr 47min
The Paperboy isn’t a very talked about film – in fact, I haven’t heard anything since its horrible reception at Cannes in 2012.
Well, I have to be honest here: aside from its reception at Cannes, the only thing I knew about The Paperboy was that Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron. As childish as it may be, I found the mental image of Kidman peeing on Mr. High School Musical himself hilarious. Going in, I didn’t know the context of this scene but it turns out that Efron was attacked by jellyfish and Kidman, in all her vampish glory as Charlotte Bless, pulls up her sundress up to pee on his face.
Regardless of this vulgar and frivolous scene (really, it contributed nothing to the plot nor did it develop the characters in any meaningful way), the film was rather forgettable. The patchwork cast is probably the most interesting thing.
We have Matthew McConaughey as Ward Jansen, a hotshot reporter who returns to his small, Floridian hometown to cover the story of Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack). Ward suspects that Hillary was wrongly convicted of murder and plans to write a story exonerating him. Ward and his partner, Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo), enlist Ward’s younger brother, Jack, (Zac Efron) as their driver. Nicole Kidman plays Jack’s love interest Charlotte, an obsessive middle-aged woman who compulsively writes letters to convicts in hopes of finding “the one”. She falls in love with Hillary and ultimately works with Ward and Yardley to exonerate him. The story is primarily told through the eyes of Anita (Macy Gray), the Jansen’s maid.
So, there you have it: Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, and Macy Gray all rolled into one hot sweaty mess of a film. The racial “undertones” were not at all subtle nor poignant but heavy-handed and overbearing. The storyline was predictable and weak. It was melodramatic but couldn’t handle the themes without becoming artificial and/or farcical.
I really wanted to like this film. It had the potential to be much better. Sure, the cast was an unconventional mix but that’s exactly why I wanted it to work. The plot had the makings of a captivating thriller but fell off quickly. It wasn’t unwatchable by any means but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it (unless you really want to see Nicole Kidman pee on someone, but I can promise that it will be anticlimactic).