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A sexy thriller based on the New York Times best seller by Pete Dexter. Lured by imploring letters from the beautiful siren Charlotte (Nicole Kidman), handsome, hard-nosed reporter Ward James (Matthew McConaughey) and his partner, Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo), return to Ward's hometown of Lately, Florida, to investigate the seemingly unjust imprisonment of Charlotte's lover, alligator hunter Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack)
For more about The Paperboy and the The Paperboy Blu-ray release, see the The Paperboy Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on January 24, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, Scott Glenn
Director: Lee Daniels
» See full cast & crew
The Paperboy Blu-ray Review
Southern Fried Grand Guignol.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, January 24, 2013
Does Matthew McConaughey have some sort of score to settle with the American South, the region of his birth? The lanky Texas native has recently essayed at least a couple of roles in southern set films where his characters aren't exactly the standard bearers of moral probity. Killer Joe found McConaughey as a Texas lawman who had carved (and/or shot) out a side career as a hired hitman. Now in The Paperboy we move more or less directly east to Florida and find McConaughey as an apparently righteous reporter who has a few skeletons in his closet. Both Killer Joe and The Paperboy revel in a certain postmodern Southern Gothic atmosphere, positing dysfunctional families (to say the least) as well as a kind of fetid overall atmosphere where the heat and humidity may have helped to break down "traditional" morés. If the family dynamic in The Paperboy is decidedly more subdued, if ultimately no less roiled, than in Killer Joe, the general environment of this kind of quasi-murder mystery is no less unseemly, full of characters who aren't always who they seem to be and whose relationships are often based on a kind of smarmy foundation. Co-writer and director Lee Daniels has a long history in either helming or producing films that feature morally questionable characters in kind of disturbing settings, and he once again exploits both of those elements in The Paperboy. The film is unabashedly melodramatic, as well as kind of unapologetically pulpy at its core. For those who don't mind some over the top characters doing underhanded things, the film does offer some mostly well modulated performances. Nicole Kidman has come in for the lion's share of critical accolades for her performance as blowsy "prison groupie" Charlotte Bless, though I personally found her Southern accent a rather wobbly construct, even if her overall demeanor is miles away from her usual more glamorous fare (in this regard, at least somewhat similar to Halle Berry's Oscar winning turn in the Daniels produced Monster's Ball , which is due out in a new two-fer edition, after having been kind of oddly paired with Crash in another two-fer edition a couple of years ago).
Daniels has a history of attracting big name talent to his projects (none other than Oprah Winfrey will be making her big screen return in Daniels' upcoming The Butler), and he has once again assembled a rather superlative cast for The Paperboy, including McConaughey, Kidman, Zac Efron, Scott Glenn, and John Cusack. The film is supposedly a reminiscence of a family maid played by Macy Gray, who in the film's opening framing device is either spectacularly stoned out of her mind or doing a damned fine acting job. The narration by Gray's character ultimately lapses into a sort of tonally unbalanced "meta" quality, where she talks about things she didn't personally witness and also speaks directly to the audience about some of these things. And that element points up one of the salient failures of The Paperboy in terms of hanging together as a cohesive drama: this film is all over the place, from storytelling to performance styles to just general character development.
Gray's character of Anita takes us back to the summer of 1969 and introduces us to the family for whom she cleans, including younger son Jack (Zac Efron), father W.W. (Scott Glenn), and, ultimately, older brother Ward (McConaughey), who has moved to Miami to work for the Miami Times. We've already seen the murder of a crooked local sheriff by an unseen assailant and ultimately learn that a man named Hilary Van Wetter (John Cusack) has been convicted of the crime and is on death row. Ward and his writing partner Yardley (David Oyelowo) show up to investigate whether Hilary is actually innocent, at which point Charlotte enters the picture, since she has been in regular (mail) contact with the convict and hopes to marry him as soon as possible.
While the investigation into Hilary's potential guilt or innocence continues, Jack's overweening hormones kick in and he embarks on a major fantasy involving Charlotte, whom he has been chauffering here and there. Prison meetings between Ward, Yardley, Charlotte and Hilary don't exactly go as planned, at which point The Paperboy takes not one but several completely bizarre left turns that may leave some viewers' heads spinning. Without posting any potential spoilers, suffice it to say that both Ward and Yardley are harboring certain secrets, while a supposed "happily ever after" between Hilary and Charlotte turns out to be anything but.
The film, which is already on pretty tenuous ground, devolves into absolute ludicrousness as it makes an epic jump into quasi-horror territory in its final sequence. By that time the film has jettisoned any even tangential connection to its already pretty fanciful "reality". The Paperboy simply doesn't seem to know exactly what it wants to be. Is it fodder for teenyboppers (Efron jaunts around undressed for the vast bulk of the film, including large swaths where he wears only his tighty whiteys), a sort of investigative procedural, a story of star-crossed lovers, or in fact a slasher film (Hilary's weapon of choice is a machete)? There are certain lunatic pleasures to be had in The Paperboy, but my hunch is they're most suited to those with a certain love of "instant camp".
The Paperboy Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Paperboy is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Millennium Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1. I frankly didn't see The Paperboy in its very brief theatrical exhibition (at least in this market), so can't accurately judge how true to the original "look" of the film this Blu-ray is, but what immediately struck me about this transfer is how soft it is, no doubt due to the fact that this was shot on Super 16. Even some close-ups offer gauzy, relatively fuzzy imagery, which, considering Daniels' cinematographer is the well regarded Roberto Schaefer (Quantum of Solace), I have to assume was an intentional choice, perhaps to give the film a quasi-verité ambience. The other major issue here is how routinely contrast is pushed, to the point where many scenes seem to have a milky overlay poured over them. Now all of this may sound like The Paperboy looks pretty bad, but that's not the case. Taken on its own merits, there's a gritty quality to the appearance of this film that perfectly suits its lurid subject matter. This isn't a "pretty" film, or an eye popping high definition presentation, but it's an authentic one.
The Paperboy Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Paperboy features a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix which only really fully exploits the surround channels in a couple of ways, the ubiquitous source cues Daniels incorporates in the film (none of which would probably be considered "Top 10" 1969 material) and in some of the swamp scenes, where some well placed ambient environmental noise is well utilized to help create sonic atmosphere. The bulk of this film plays out in intimate dialogue scenes, and the track supports that facet very well. Occasionally some slight increase in immersion will show up (a scene of Kidman and Efron running madly down a motel balcony has some good effects), but this is a fairly front heavy mix, as should probably be expected from the kind of proto-indie ambience Daniels is going for.
The Paperboy Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Paperboy Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Paperboy has a fantastic cast, but they're all largely adrift in the morass of this screenplay and Daniels' unfocused attempts to knit together a cohesive story. The film works in dribs and drabs, and while Kidman has gotten most of the attention, there are some rather good turns here by McConaughey and even Efron, who shows some unexpected range. Fans of any of these actors may want to check this out as a rental, but I seriously doubt very many people are going to want to add this to their permanent collection.
The Paperboy: Other Editions
The Paperboy Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Paperboy Blu-ray - October 16, 2012
Millennium Entertainment is bringing director Lee Daniels' 2012 thriller The Paperboy to Blu-ray early next year. The film stars Zac Efron (17 Again), and Matthew McConaughey (Sahara), along with co-stars, David Oyelowo (The Last King of Scotland), Macy Gray (Déjà ...
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