The Paperboy – Review

5 Oct

I would assume that when people think of the film maker Lee Daniels, there are a few movies that immediately pop into their heads. These movies are Precious and the more recent The Butler, a movie which Daniels seemed to love putting his name all over. I would venture to guess that not many people would think of his mainly under the radar film of 2012, The Paperboy, a film based off of novelist Pete Dexter’s book of the same name. While being nominated for Golden Globe and also competing for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, this film remained relatively unheard of, which kind of seems to make sense after watching it.

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In the small bayou town of Lately, Florida, investigative journalist Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) and his partner Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo) are hired by Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) for a rather strange job. The two are to investigate an old crime and hopefully prove the innocence of Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack), a death row inmate who has been charged with murdering a sheriff and with whom Charlotte has fallen madly in love with. Soon, Ward’s younger brother Jack (Zac Efron) makes himself part of the investigation, but can’t seem to get past his feelings towards Charlotte, who is becoming more and more obsessed with Hillary. The investigation is met with a seemingly endless run of obstacles including racism, unexpected violence, and secrets that none of the characters are willing to have come to light.

Now, I’ve never seen a movie by Lee Daniels before, but just judging from The Paperboy, I love his style. This movie takes place in the deep south during the 1960s, so there’s plenty of stylistic choices to go with. One way would be to make a film that simply and realistically depicts what this would look and sound like. The other way, or should I say the more interesting way, would be to create a hyper-realistic film shot on 16mm to give it a gritty look, make all of the colors faded, and have all of the actors look like their dying from heat stroke. That is how Lee Daniels makes this movie look excellent. It actually looks like it was produced in the 1960s, so I have to give Daniels a lot of credit there. Not only that, but I could almost feel the heat and humidity that seemed to be radiating from this movie.

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I also have to give Lee Daniels and Pete Dexter credit on the uncompromising way they tell the story. I was actually kind of surprised that the MPAA let this movie fly so easily cut the way it is. Lets just say The Paperboy went places with its story that I was neither expecting it to, but also it went places that it probably shouldn’t have. I like that the film makers liked to take risks, since not taking them can sometimes lead to a boring movie. The problem that it poses here is that the movie got way too distracted and often times took itself way too seriously. It was too often that the plot strayed way too far from the crux of the drama, and too close to the angsty spirit of Jack. By the time we get to the climax of the movie, I didn’t feel like I was all there cause I wasn’t even quite sure how we got there. It would have been much more interesting to focus on the criminal investigation with these over the top characters, but instead we get a sort of twisted, lustful romance that took itself way too seriously and detracts major, major points from the movie as a whole.

What saves the movie from falling too deep into the pit of awful is the performances by each and every one of the actors. Of all the Disney stars that have come out of that hell hole over the past few years, Zac Efron is the one that shows the most potential, and he handles the thickness of this movie well. As it would be expected, Matthew McConaughey owns every scene he’s in, even though I feel like he was a tad underused. John Cusack plays a creep almost too well, and I haven’t been as frustrated with a character as I was with Kidman’s in quite a long time. Going back to what I was saying about the story, I just wish they stuck more with McConaughey and Oyelowo’s characters since I found what they were doing much more interesting and involving.

I’ve heard a lot of negative things about The Paperboy, but at the same time I’ve heard people who’ve loved it. This is one of those movies where you really love it or you hate it, but for me it just isn’t that simple. I didn’t think that this was a great movie, but it was a good homage to pulpy, entertaining trash. I’m not sure if this is what was expected, but that’s just the feeling I got from it. This would have been a really good movie if the story was more concerned with the drama that actually felt important and interesting. Instead, it gets distracted with some random scenes of steamy lust and young adult angst. Just know what you’re getting into if you decide to watch this movie.

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One Response to “The Paperboy – Review”

  1. CMrok93 October 6, 2014 at 6:08 pm #

    Really strange, but the cast is so good that I didn’t care too much about the little weird things. Good review.

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