THe Paperboy

Art & Culture

Director Lee Daniels’ first film since Precious is very different, being set in the Florida in 1969, but it’s a lot of fun in an OTT kind of way.

Zac Efron is a young guy living at home, who is thrilled when his revered older brother (Matthew McConoughey), an investigative reporter, comes home from Miami to see if he can find evidence to release a man who’s on Death Row for killing a cop. With him is another journalist (David Oyelowo) who is a middle class Englishman, and – more disconcertingly for the natives – black.

Into this manly world struts Charlotte Bless, a white trash 40 year old with a tight skirt, a push up bra and a yen for men in prison. She has decided that Hillary van Wetter (John Cusack) the guy on Death Row, is the man of her dreams, and she wants to help get him out. It turns out that Hillary is far from being a saint; in fact he’s a foulmouthed sleazebag, but the reporters are determined to find evidence to prove his innocence, and go to it with a will. Meanwhile, young Zac has got the hots for Charlotte big time, and his ardour is not diminished by her peeing on him when he gets stung by a jellyfish.

The faults and virtues of the film come from the same source – a willingness to keep cranking up the ante, and a plot that roams here there and everywhere. Just when you think you’ve discovered what kind of film it is, you find it’s a different kind. And just when you think it’s gone as far as it can go, it goes further. I like its mad ambition.

The Paperboy is an OTT Gothic thriller/melodrama by Lee Daniels who made Precious. Zac Efron casts off his pretty but harmless image as a young Southern kid in 1969 devotedly following his older bother (Matthew McConoughey), who is trying to prove the innocence of sleazebag John Cusack. Nicole Kidman’s sexpot slut is along for the ride, and Zac is crazy for her. The plot goes all over the place, and it probably goes on too long, but I loved the ambition of the film, its wilder flights of fancy, and Daniels’ preference for wacky over sensible.

Phil Raby