The Paperboy

‘Precious’ director Lee Daniels plumbs new depths of trashiness

The Paperboy


Director: Lee Daniels
Starring: Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman
Time Out rating:
Japanese title: Paperboy Mannatsu no Inryoku

In case you thought incestuous rape intercut with sizzling sausages was a mite too subtle, Lee Daniels’s palpitating follow-up to his 2009 Best Picture nominee, Precious, leaves no bodily secretion, unflattering patch of celebrity skin or billboard-sized metaphor behind. The story, as far as it matters, centres on the reopening of a Florida death-row case, led by a scar-faced investigative reporter (Matthew McConaughey); his horny, ornamental baby brother (Zac Efron); and the condemned’s trashy pen-pal fiancé (Nicole Kidman). But the film exhibits way more enthusiasm for tactile sensation – and Efron’s tighty whities – than for Pete Dexter’s swamp-noir script. While key expository details are mumbled over transitional montages, a prison-set simulated blow job between Kidman and an icky John Cusack gets the languid, crotch-centric shot/reverse-shot treatment.

As with Daniels’s adaptation of the Sapphire novel, the guiding aesthetic (and to some degree, the ethic) of The Paperboy is exploitation: these are films that objectify and fetishise their own schizophrenic style and adolescent excesses. The problem is that the filmmaker brings D-grade craft to these B-movie exertions, making his florid maximalism more entertaining to talk about than endure – despite the best efforts of his ardently slumming A-list cast. Daniels has the liberated impulses of an artist – this is not a commercial or compromised film by any measure – but so far, he’s lacking the weird genius that could elevate these gothic horrors beyond the merely, if spiritedly, profane.

The Paperboy opens at select cinemas nationwide on July 27

By Eric Hynes
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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