Set in the 1960’s, with the backdrop of violent alligator swamplands in South Florida, The Paperboy revolves around a team of people working to free a man wrongly prosecuted. Nothing can prepare you for the vile feeling you get while watching this trash tale. And that is exactly what could deem this film adaption of Pete Dexter’s bestselling novel Mulholland Falls as successful.
Convict groupie Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) forms a pen pal relationship with a death row inmate Hillary van Wetter (John Cusack), choosing him amongst all the other convict lovers to be ‘the one’. Soon they are engaged and she is determined to get her fiancé, whom she’s never personally met, out of jail. To do this she aids the help of investigating journalist for The Miami Times, Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) and his British black partner Yardley Acheman (David Ovelowo).
Ward returns to his hometown, for this possible career making story, as it is believed that Van Wetter was wrongly prosecuted for the murder of a corrupt local sheriff. His younger brother Jack (Zac Efron), a former swimmer and now college dropout, acts as their driver, who for the most part rarely wears pants (for Efron fans, that’s probably a perk). Jack forms a frustrating lust for the blond tart, whom lets everyone have a go, except for him.
Clearly you can tell very little time is spent on the actual story, instead the focus lies with the very perverted nature of these characters. Kidman does a shockingly good job portraying the typical trashy blond, except with a well shaped body that goes against our general stereotype. Other than that, she has the fake lashes, tights clothes, big fake blond hair and is shamelessly promiscuous (made very clear in a scene that will haunt me for months).
When Charlotte meets Van Wetter for the first time; obviously no contact is allowed upon visits, so the two sit a fair distance opposite each other. While in the company of the prison guards, Jack, Ward and Yardley, Van Wetter orders Charlotte to spread her legs, rip her pantyhose and open her mouth whilst both are touching themselves.
Charlotte again proves she is without shame when Jack gets stung multiple times going for a swim to cool of his sexual frustration while lying next to Charlotte’s bikini body at the beach. She urinates all over him, hearing that it helps with the pain. The poor boy becomes front page news after that incident.
The whole film is full of moments like these. But why be so explicit? Lee Daniels attempts to make the audience experience some of the discomfort the characters feel, all very frustrated people. While mostly sexual in nature, but comments on racism also pop up from time to time. Other topics that feed this feeling of frustration is boredom, homosexuality, interracial relations, obsession and ownership, all escalating in excessive violence.
This is not what you’d expect from Lee Daniels, director of the award winning abuse drama Precious. However, Paperboy was nominated for a number of performance awards. Most of the nominations went to Kidman, but it is McConaughey that won.
It is incredibly melo-dramatic and labelled by some as a possible trash classic. So whether you are merely curious after reading this or like watching Efron’s abs wonder about in tighty-whitey’s, this is not the type of film one simply watches for a nice evening at home. Be careful not to choke on your popcorn.