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Re: The Paperboy reviews

Posted: Fri Oct 19, 2012 4:34 am
by Big Magilla
By Jake Howell
Torontonian Reviews: The Paperboy
Posted Thursday, October 18th, 2012

The Paperboy is a sweaty, putrid piece of movie-making, and is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. The problem here is assuredly not the source material – it is unequivocally, unmistakeably, one-hundred-percent attributed to the directing of Lee Daniels, a filmmaker who has ranged from woah-that’s-bad (Shadowboxer) to cultural phenomenon (Precious).

There are plenty of films out there that are objectively “worse” than this movie, but many of those stinkers are still more enjoyable than the mess Daniels has created. A recent example to satisfy this criticism is Taken 2, a film that by all means is stupid, ridiculous, unnecessary…look, it doesn’t matter what you want to call it: it is a bone-headed film, but still a movie we can see with abyssal expectations and emerge with silly grins on our faces. The same cannot be said for The Paperboy, for the act of watching it is so distinctly uncomfortable, so unusually disgusting and off-putting that I have a hard time not getting the willies remembering it. I want to forget. I want to forget and then bathe in tomato sauce.

The plot – which is better described as a stitched-together monstrosity of subplots – is a perversion of the acclaimed Pete Dexter novel of the same name. Set amongst the humid backdrop of 1960’s Florida, Jansen brothers Ward (Matthew McConaughey) and perpetually-shirtless Jack (Zac Efron) work together to acquit a death row inmate (John Cusack). Adding a wrinkle to the drama is Nicole Kidman’s Charlotte Bless, a woman romantically and mentally obsessed with the case. Unfortunately for everyone involved (that includes us), none of it makes for compelling cinema, especially when the mood pinballs from camp to serious without ever really leaving the bonfire and marshmallow roast.

Sometimes when you watch a movie – especially a really great one – it can be difficult to pinpoint what exactly the director of a film has done or added to the piece to make it their own. We don’t need to get into auteur theory here, but with The Paperboy we see a director who has unleashed his bad ideas and poor execution upon an otherwise salvageable script, not unlike a certain urination scene in the film. Essentially all over the map, Daniels exhibits an unwavering stubbornness to make something weird and intentionally shocking; the result being a confusing melange of styles, camera techniques, and color gimmicks that never feel coherently connected or artistically merited whatsoever. Lee Daniels simply cannot seem to decide on a direction or aesthetic, other than sticky indulgence and making the film as sweaty as possible. There are other issues – the script is inane, the pacing poor – but I’m confident someone less extreme at the helm could have saved The Paperboy from its inevitable walk of shame at the Razzies.

The following must be made clear: that The Paperboy is awful is not a selling point. It’s understood that exceptionally bad movies will attract an audience of camp enthusiasts, but Lee Daniels’ third directing credit is not a “trashterpiece” or “so bad it’s good” or “there’s nothing else on television, honey”. No, it’s just trash: garbage that has been pissed on by raccoons or crocodiles or whatever animal your locale attracts and glossed with the veneer of star power and intriguing trailers. Stay away. Let it die. Just let it shrivel up and die.

Re: The Paperboy

Posted: Sun May 27, 2012 10:14 pm
by Reza
Greg wrote:Intrigued, I checked out Shadowboxer at IMDB. Any film where Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr. get it on could fall in the so-bad-its-good category.

Check out this film. It's actually not that bad and Mirren is very good as usual.

Re: The Paperboy

Posted: Fri May 25, 2012 9:10 pm
by danfrank
(minor spoiler) This is getting some buzz for having great camp appeal. Apparently there's a scene in which Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron after he's been stung by a jellyfish. My favorite quote, from a tweet from Time Out: ""I look forward to seeing NYC drag queens re-enact scenes from 'The Paperboy' for decades to come."

Re: The Paperboy

Posted: Fri May 25, 2012 4:48 am
by Precious Doll
Shadowboxer demands a viewing. It's so bad that it's good. Much like Precious. Guilty pleasures and nothing more.

What on earth the Cannes selectors were thinking when they included the latest Lee Daniels effort will remain one of the biggest head scratchers of all-time. It can only have to do with some star voltage on the red carpet.

Re: The Paperboy

Posted: Thu May 24, 2012 7:40 pm
by Greg
Intrigued, I checked out Shadowboxer at IMDB. Any film where Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr. get it on could fall in the so-bad-its-good category.

Re: The Paperboy

Posted: Thu May 24, 2012 7:00 pm
by Sabin
Mike D'Angelo thought Precious was the worst film of 2009. I wouldn't disagree with him.

I should see Shadowboxer. Just to KNOW. The Onion A.V. Club has a terrific My Year of Flops entry on Shadowboxer:

Oscar-Winner-Laden Pre-Precious Preposterousness Case File #181: Shadowboxer ... ase,51224/

Re: The Paperboy

Posted: Thu May 24, 2012 6:40 pm
by ksrymy
Sonic Youth wrote:"Lee Daniels: Worst filmmaker of our time, or worst filmmaker of all time?

So I'm assuming Tyler Perry doesn't count if he's giving Daniels this title.

Re: The Paperboy

Posted: Thu May 24, 2012 9:42 am
by Sonic Youth
Mike D'Angelo gave the film a 9... out of 100.

"Lee Daniels: Worst filmmaker of our time, or worst filmmaker of all time? Discuss. I gave it 7 points for Macy Gray and 1 point for each time it used Al Wilson's recording of 'Show and Tell.'"

(IMO, he should have knocked 2 points off for the same reason but never mind.)

Re: The Paperboy

Posted: Thu May 24, 2012 9:28 am
by Sonic Youth
Shadowboxer is the worst movie ever made, just so you all know.

The Paperboy
By Justin Chang

Racial prejudice, journalistic ethics and a half-naked Zac Efron are among the pressing matters on the mind of "The Paperboy." A very special delivery indeed, director Lee Daniels' follow-up to "Precious" is a risibly overheated, not unenjoyable slab of late-'60s Southern pulp trash, marked by a sticky, sweaty atmosphere of delirium and sexual frustration that only partly excuses the woozy ineptitude of the filmmaking. With Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey and John Cusack wading through a murky swamp of a story, this patchy potboiler should generate some theatrical curiosity but will look more at home on checkout stands.

Pete Dexter's engrossing 1995 novel about two brothers, one a reporter investigating a possible miscarriage of justice in the volatile days following the peak of the civil-rights movement, sketched an incisive portrait of hard-nosed, old-school journalism at work. That detail is absent from Dexter and Daniels' adaptation, which gets off to a questionable start by handing large swaths of voiceover narration to the brothers' maid, Anita (Macy Gray), blearily recalling events as though from the depths of a bad hangover.

In the summer of '69, dogged Miami Times reporter Ward Jansen (McConaughey) returns to his small-town Florida roots to write a piece on Hillary Van Wetter (Cusack), a particularly nasty sort sitting on death row for the murder of a notoriously racist sheriff. Ward persuades his younger brother, Jack (Efron), to work for him as a driver, though the kid quickly runs afoul of Ward's arrogant colleague, Yardley (David Oyelowo).

Prepared to believe Hillary may be innocent, Ward and Yardley have unwisely placed their trust in Charlotte Bless (Kidman), an aging sexpot with a prison fetish who's fallen for Hillary and is determined to get him exonerated. A vision in hot-pink lipstick and bleached-blond wig, with a deliciously tacky wardrobe of short skirts, leopard-print blouses and gold-lame pants (designed by Caroline Eselin-Schaefer), Charlotte is a woman of strange, even telekinetic talents, as seen during her first prison visit with the horny Hillary.

In the course of his investigation, Ward must interview an inbred-looking family living in the middle of an alligator-infested swamp, perhaps supplying a metaphor for the violently repressed secrets that keep bubbling to the surface. Daniels, not known for his directorial subtlety, would seem to have the right touch and temperament for this kind of crazy Southern gothic, and up to a point the wobbly widescreen framing and haphazard editing seem of a piece with the thick, fetid mood. For better or worse, viewers are apt to emerge feeling as if they've just been bathed in blood, sweat, urine, mud and crocodile guts.

Yet the filmmakers have largely misjudged their story priorities here, showing minimal interest in the central mystery and dwelling to the point of distraction on the novel's more lubricious episodes. As Jack becomes infatuated with Charlotte, the oppressive humidity gives him no shortage of reasons to show off his swimmer's physique, at which point the camera can at least be counted on to snap to attention. Set to a soundtrack of soul hits and full of bizarre scene transitions, the film seems possessed by the spirits of blaxploitation and "Baywatch."

As a result, "The Paperboy" feels closer in spirit to Daniels' much-reviled 2005 debut, "Shadowboxer," than to 2009's "Precious," in which he demonstrated a talent for directing actors that's little in evidence here. Kidman's tarted-up turn as what one character describes as "an oversexed Barbie doll" is heavier on eyeshadow than emotion; Cusack is scarcely the picture of white-trash villainy; and McConaughey, though given the most sympathetic character arc, elicits pity for mostly the wrong reasons.

Most compelling onscreen dynamic is between Jack and Anita, warmly enacted by Efron and "Shadowboxer" alum Gray. While the decision to foreground Gray's role is meant to play up the complex racial dynamics of the period, the film unfortunately seems to have taken its technical cues from Anita's meandering, concussion-like voiceover, particularly apparent in two scenes of gory but clumsily staged action. At one point, a sex scene is pointlessly intercut with shots of swamp animals, looking either dead or reproachful, followed by a lazy fadeout as Anita mutters, "I think y'all seen enough."

Re: The Paperboy

Posted: Thu May 24, 2012 8:50 am
by Sonic Youth
The Paperboy
24 May, 2012 | By Mike Goodridge

Dir: Lee Daniels. US.2012. 107 mins.

A curious selection for Cannes competition, Lee Daniels’ first film since Precious (which was in Un Certain Regard) is an enjoyably lurid potboiler with a keen sense of humour, which has more in common with Daniels’ guilty pleasure feature debut Shadowboxer than with the urban drama of Precious. Based on a novel by Pete Dexter (Paris Trout) and set in a sun-drenched summer in Florida 1969, it’s a film of vivid colours, steamy atmosphere and sexual desire rather than tight plotting, but no less entertaining for that.

If highbrow Cannes critics don’t take it seriously, audiences might be more attracted to the hip blend of Daniels and a high-calibre cast led by Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey and Nicole Kidman. The inbred racism of the sixties deep south pervades every frame, giving us a timely glimpse into the US apartheid system which was still going full blast just 40 years ago. Indeed international audiences might respond more favourably to this warts-and-all portrait of the American underside than domestic.

Based on a true story, the film revolves around two brothers Jack Jensen (Efron) – a sensitive 20 year-old swimming jock newly kicked out of college who is back in his smalltown working as a paperboy – and Ward Jensen (McConaughey), a hotshotjournalist from Miami who arrives in town to pursue a story that could make his career.

The story concerns a Death Row inmate called Hillary Van Wetter (Cusack), sentenced to death forkilling a cop, and Ward and his British black writing partner Yardley (Oyewolo) believe that his trial was a sham and that he is innocent. They enlist the help of Charlotte Bless (Kidman), a death row groupie who is engaged to Van Wetter even though she hasn’t met him yet. Using her correspondence with the sentenced man as the basis, Ward and Yardley set about investigating the case, using Jack as a driver.

Jack, meanwhile, develops a crush on Charlotte who teases and flirts with him as she does with everyone. As the facts of the case become murkier, the five characters are unwittingly set on a collision course in which all their secrets, ambitions, lies and passions come brimming to the surface.

The narrator of the story and constant presence in the Jensen household is the put-upon family maid Anita (Gray) with whom Jack has a special bond.

Daniels abounds with confidence and playfulness here and there are some deliciously camp scenes – Charlotte and Van Wetter having sex with each other across a crowdedprison visiting room, Charlotte peeing on Jack after he has been bitten by jellyfish, the discovery that Ward is gay with a penchant for rough sex with black men, the revelation that Yardley is putting on his posh English accent.

The story is somewhat forgotten in amid the sex and style: it is never clear why Ward is interested in the Van Wetter case, what makes Charlotte tick or who actually killed the cop in the first place.

But the actors keep it engaging. Efron – whose hard body is extensively lingered on by Daniels’ camera – does a nice job as the lovestruck youngster and Kidman has a blast as Charlotte Bless, all bright dresses and gold pants, gaudy makeup, pushed up breasts and blond wigs. John Cusack, looking more like Nicolas Cage than himself, is also plainly enjoying himself as the brutish Van Wetter.

Daniels douses the whole garish affair in a glorious soundtrack of songs from the likes of Labelle, Al Wilson, Gladys Knight and The Four Tops which heightens the explosive racial cocktail.

The Paperboy reviews

Posted: Thu May 24, 2012 8:22 am
by Sonic Youth
The Paperboy: Cannes Review
by Todd McCarthy
Hollywood Reporter

Instead of getting all prestigious after the success of Precious, Lee Daniels has gone even more down and dirty with The Paperboy, a tasty wallow in sordid goings-on down South in 1969. Basking in a funky, disreputable feel despite its prestigious source material and classy cast, the film has been crafted to resemble a grungy exploitation melodrama made in the period it depicts, which might mystify the uninitiated but gives the film an appealingly rough and rasty texture. There is no release date set yet, but Millennium would probably be well advised to jump straight into wide release rather than go the specialized route, as many upscale urban types will likely look down their noses at the trashy milieu and behavior.

Working from the well received 1995 novel by Pete Dexter (Deadwood, Paris Trout), Daniels and Dexter himself have stuck closely to the book’s storyline in their adaptation but have amped up the racial element by making one major character and two secondary ones black rather than white. This doesn’t create any fundamental differences but does thicken the deck with extra tensions and innuendo.

This is a tale of murder, idealistic journalism, warped sexual desires, a slipshod legal system and inbred backwater types hostile to outsiders. Suspecting a miscarriage of justice in the case of the murder of a small town cop, Miami Times reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) returns to his native Lately, Florida, to dig into it with the help of black collaborator Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo), who was white in the novel.

The instigator of it all is Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), a trashy blond of a certain age with a thing for felons; she announces that, after a long correspondence, she’s now engaged to Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack), the swamp rat due to be executed for the cop killing. Determined and sharp-witted behind her loud outfits and heavy eye makeup, Charlotte puts on quite a show when she accompanies Ward and Yardley to their first meeting with the crumpled, stringy-haired Hillary; the betrothed couple indulges in a heavy-breathing bout of mutual auto-eroticism at first sight.

But Hillary’s not the only one with the hots for the leggy sexpot. Ward’s younger brother Jack (Zac Efron), who in his truck distributes the local paper published by their father (Scott Glenn), drives the gang around and becomes fixated on Charlotte, his agony exacerbated when she has a fling with Yardley. A college swimmer with great looks and a rippling body, Jack is a directionless, unformed young man and it’s the first big screen part Efron has handled with skill and conviction; he’s quite good in it.

Hillary is obviously a no-good guy but that doesn’t mean he committed the murder. Still, Ward and Yardley get far from a warm welcome when they trudge through a gator-infested swamp in an attempt to extract exonerating evidence from Hillary’s uncle, whose dislike of outsiders is advertised by the Confederate flag on his house.

Thwarting expectations, the story doesn’t remain squarely on the track of righting the wrongs of the justice system and solving a mysterious murder. About midway through, attention turns to some even more perplexing personal misjudgments, as two major characters make ill-advised decisions that lead to dire consequences; in the end, it’s a tragedy, but for nothing like the reasons one might suspect at the beginning.

Daniels starts the film in unnecessarily choppy fashion with interview-style narration from the Jansen family’s maid and cook (Macy Gray) that misleadingly makes her an early center of attention. But once it settles in, the story and the characters’ often misguided obsessions take hold. So do the stylistic choices; the film is gloriously grubby in a fashion that technical improvements over the last 40 years have made obsolete. The colors and contrasts are ugly, the lighting garish, the cutting sometimes jarring and jumpy, combining for an inelegant look of a sort that marked low-budget, and often southern-shot, programmers during the AIP, New World and Crown-International era. And it’s perfect for this material and its period.

In the spirit of the venture, the entire cast gets down and comes off all the better for it. Both Efron and McConaughey get very messed up physically and both actors seem stimulated to be playing such flawed characters. Kidman exults in tramping it up but also reveals Charlotte’s superficial strength and more fundamental weakness. Merely laying eyes on Cusack’s creepy convict would be enough to convince most people that he shouldn’t be allowed out amongst the public, while Oyelowo’s Yardley shrewdly holds back, both out of understandable wariness of others’ attitudes and a reporter’s learned skepticism.

Louisiana locations are well used and the soundtrack, a mix of Mario Grigorov’s original score and potpourri of period tunes, is a small feast.