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Cannes 2012: The Paperboy (3 stars)

Lee Daniels’ plot hole-ridden latest film is still a compelling, if occasionally ludicrous, ride

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Cannes 2012: The Paperboy

Lee Daniels follows up his sleeper hit Precious with an enjoyably trashy, if often misguided, story based on the book by Pete Dexter.

It’s 1969 and journalist Ward (Matthew McConaughey) returns to his hometown of Lately, Florida to investigate what he believes is a miscarriage of justice: the sentencing of Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) for the murder of the local sheriff. He arrives with writing partner Yardley (David Oyelowo) and enlists the help of his brother Jack (Zac Efron) and Hillary’s lover Charlotte (Nicole Kidman) to help with the investigation. The whole story is narrated through the eyes of the family’s maid, Anita (Macy Gray).

The Paperboy unfolds in a haphazard manner, careering from theme to theme (issues of race, sexuality and capital punishment are raised and then discarded without much consideration). Most disconcerting of all are the eye-popping, gratuitous scenes which litter the film, some funny and bizarre (Charlotte peeing over Jack after he’s attacked by jellyfish) others violent and distasteful (one homophobic attack is particularly hard to stomach and given little explanation).

Yet despite its plot holes The Paperboy is a surprisingly involving film with solid performances from its cast and a remarkable performance from Nicole Kidman that will have you questioning if it is really her under that blonde wig. And the final scenes, whilst not entirely plausible, do make great use of Florida’s alligator infested swamps which become a chilling backdrop to the film’s finale. The Paperboy can confidently be labelled a ‘guilty pleasure’.

The Paperboy screened at Cannes Film Festival 2012.

The Paperboy

  • 3 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 107 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Lee Daniels
  • Written by: Pete Dexter (novel)
  • Cast: Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, Scott Glenn, Nick Nolte, Macy Gray (narrator)
  • UK release: 15 March 2013

Florida, 1969: journalist Ward (McConaughey) investigates the story of a man (Cusack) who's been sentenced to death for killing a cop. Based on a Pete Dexter novel, it's haphazard and continues some bizarre moments, such as a soon-to-be-notorious peeing scene, but surprisingly involving and with solid performances; Kidman…

Elsewhere on the web

Zac Efron - Jack's daydream - Paperboy by @ZefronFR

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