15 February 2013 | BTaylor1990
The Paperboy (Lee Daniels, 2012) 3/5 Lee Daniels follow up to his heart wrenching Precious will make you feel dirty. In fact, there are times where you just feel the need to scrub yourself incessantly so you can cope with what is occurring on screen! Based on Peter Dexter's novel of the same name, the narrative follows two investigative journalists - Yardley Acheman and Ward Jansen - who aim to write a story to release convicted murderer Hillary Van Wetter. With the help of nymphomaniac Charlotte Bless, who corresponds with Wetter in prison and Ward's younger brother Jack they soon uncover not everything is what it seems in the sticky heat of the South.
The best way to get your head around is by remembering the exploitation films of the 1970's, where sex, drugs and violence were a staple. If you do this, then you can appreciate what Daniels and his producers were trying to achieve. Indeed, this is one of the films strengths as it pulls no punches at being explicit wherever possible, which garnered extremely mixed reviews when it was screened at Cannes last year.
The acting pedigree of the film is high with Matthew McConaughey and Zac Effron playing the two brothers, with Nicole Kidman excelling in her role as the troubled Miss Bless. However what damages the film is the slow pace and the lack of a proper twist. Generally speaking death-row thrillers have a big reveal at the end or a taut emotional climax. For example A Time to Kill, The Life of David Gale and Dead Man Waking all succeeded because they took the audience right through the investigation. The Paperboy does this to an certain extent; however it glosses over a majority of this in favour of highlighting the sweaty atmosphere of the inhabitants. At times, this becomes so overwhelming that it is difficult to think of anything else, let alone follow the characters as they reveal their dark sides and personal demons. Another issue is casting Macy Gray as the narrator. She might be one of the most annoying maids in film history and, unfortunately, you are stuck with her voice-over for the entire proceedings.
The cinematography is excellent as Roberto Schaefer's camera gets so close to the characters that you can almost smell their body odour in the immense heat. Yes, I told you this film would make you feel dirty. A great example of this is where Charlotte meets Wetter for the first time. They are sat apart in the prison meeting room; Charlotte spread her legs and begins to masturbate. This scene wouldn't have been so bad if they were alone, but Yardley, Ward and Jack are also in the room. Take that as you will
Even though The Paperboy is an uneven thriller, what it excels in is placing the audience in uncomfortable positions. A Haneke film this is not, but by doing this the whole issue of morality and senses in the cinema is raised. As such, Daniels new feature is a sweaty, sexy and visceral experience, which needed to take some more pointers from other more complete films. All in all, you may have to scrub yourself clean, but you won't forget the experience for quite some time.