‘The Paperboy’ (2013), or ‘That Film where Nicole Kidman Pees on Zac Efron’.

16 Mar

The Paperboy posterZac Efron and Matthew McConaughey are joined by Nicole Kidman, John Cusack and Macy Gray in The Paperboy: a crime drama set in swampy South Florida during the Civil Rights movement. Efron is ‘the paperboy’, and he along with his writer brother McConaughey team up with fellow journalist Kidman to clear Cusack (her creepy husband) of a murder charge. However, the film almost instantly disregards this concept in favour of raunchy, sex-obsessed pseudo-surrealist indie experimentalism which shall be remembered as “that film where Nicole Kidman peed on Zac Efron”.

One may go into the cinema expecting, nay, hoping for this to be a film about a guy throwing newspapers at front doors while zooming past on a bicycle. Instead, I was subjected to alligator guts, urine and ridiculous over-sexualisation to the point of hilarity. The Paperboy is a film in which everyone is sexually hungry all the time, and ultimately revolves around the bittersweet love story between Efron and Kidman – the former who seldom gets dressed beyond a pair of tighty whities, and the latter who is made up like a blonde sixties sex goddess. Every other relevant face either hides some shunned sexual fetish, or wears it like a badge of honour.

This unflinching preoccupation with sex reaches its climax (pun intended and hilarious) in the most gloriously obscene way possible in the form of a scene in which Kidman and Cusack virtually have sex with each other from across the room. He pants, she squeals, he cums in his pants and she almost falls off her chair. It is bizarre yet riveting, though unfortunately marks the film’s zenith in terms of entertainment value; I was bored out of my mind for the majority of the movie’s (overly long) 106 minute duration. The sweaty sexualisation shtick outstays its welcome and sacrifices other, better filmic elements for its insatiable appetite.

"Hold on... So you want me to PEE on him?"

“Hold on… So you want me to PEE on him?”

Director Lee Daniels (Shadowboxer, Precious) frames the unfolding events with the reluctant narration of Macy Gray and, much like the overall plot in general, it’s as if the director simply forgot about her presence. The long-term housemaid for Efron and McConaughey’s family home, at first she is simply reminiscing to an unknown interviewer. However, this soon descends into omniscience regarding events which she could not have known about, and she even goes as far as to break the fourth wall at one point and address the audience. A great actress, she is wasted here really and her role only stands to represent the movie overall: messy, inconsistent and not really knowing what it’s doing.

The strange thing is, the acting is far from poor. Efron is quite a blank slate, though that sort of fits the character he’s going for in this one. Kidman is great as the stunningly beautiful yet irreparably damaged soul whose tough demeanour masks her inner turmoil, and McConaughey could play charming in his sleep. However, Cusack is the real star here: he plays the creepiest bastard I’ve seen in quite some time, which is a mega departure from the good-guy roles for which he is known. The cinematography is also quite impressive; Daniels really nailed the aesthetic ethos of the time.

Unfortunately for him, too much nailing is precisely the problem here.  Had The Paperboy been slightly weirder or slightly more straightforward, I’d have enjoyed it far more. As it is, it veers between a serious art-house style indie drama and an R-rated, live action episode of Looney Tunes. It’s crazy, but not in a satisfying way; it’s not crazy enough. An absolute turkey, avoid.

Simon says: worth watching purely because you won’t believe your eyes, but this is not a recommendation.


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