Movie Review: “The Paperboy”

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, December 7, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

(Photo: Benaroya Pictures)

Summary: Set in 1960s South Florida, a small town reporter and his partner are seeking out the truth of a controversial prisoner. Secrets are revealed and the grime of this quaint town is exposed.

Review:  Critics are hollering Lee Daniels‘ interpretation of the bestselling novel by Pete Dexter is common camp. Maybe it is the exposure of the good ‘ole South mixed with racism and sex that makes some uncomfortable — but Daniels’ work has never centered on giving audiences a warm and fuzzy feeling. The Oscar-nominated director wants to push people’s buttons, force them to think and give them a movie-going experience that they’ve never seen. Mission accomplished.

The Paperboy is graphic and shocking, but undoubtedly intelligent. Each character is packed with layers and the story is unexpected at every frame. That said, I could see how the visuals might be a challenge for some to digest. Lee Daniels is refreshingly not presenting a sanitized version of the Jim Crow South. The Paperboy is the right kind of grime, which is a more realistic version of the 1960s South than the Disney-fied The Help. Gone are the passive, “shucking and jiving Negros.” There is no residue of prim and proper Southern whites who spit the N-word and quickly adjust their bouffant. The Paperboy is disturbingly foul — as it should be. This is a film about sexuality, race, crime and class. Congrats to Daniels for having the guts to go there.

The Paperboy includes an all-star cast. There is Nicole Kidman as the sex-crazed but tortured Charlotte Bless. The powers that be won’t take notice, but this is Kidman’s most transformative performance to date. She took every risk an actor should take — but I am still elated she refused to use the N-word.

Zac Efron demolished his former teen dream image, proving he is a gifted actor and it took Daniels to dig it up. Matthew McConaughey was pushed to places he had never been and appeared to be at ease in the madness of his character. Both McConaughey and Kidman might need therapy to recover from the film!

David Oyelowo as an assistant journalist continued his streak of stellar performances. The unsung actor in the film is Macy Gray — she was a beast onscreen and the glue that held a complicated flick together.

Like many other movies, The Paperboy is a film that will get the respect it deserves years later. One day, film schools will dissect the movie and marvel at the flick’s wondrous deconstruction of race, gender and class.

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