¨He never did get over his first true love.¨
The Paperboy is an early contender for worse film of the year. This pulpy film noir thriller is so messy that it´s hard to make sense of everything that is going on. The story is just horrible with characters that are too hard to identify with. I couldn’t care less for what was going to happen to them because they were all dislikeable characters, and I really couldn’t figure out why they wanted to help each other out or why they were even together in the first place. The Paperboy tries too hard to mix everything together: a pulpy film noir, with some racial drama, a detective story (that never even solves anything), several anti-romances, and some unfunny comedy. This is just one of those trashy films that succeed in making you feel dirty, but you don’t get anything of real value out of it. I also hated the way that the film was narrated in some scenes trying to explain everything to the viewer like if we were stupid and needed everything pointed out at us (yes, we can all understand that Efron´s character was in love with Nicole Kidman because of his abandonment issues with his mother, there was no need to tell us that through voice over). The other problem I had was that the film tried too hard to shock us through several unpleasant scenes, like the close up of the gator being gutted, and these gross out scenes didn’t really connect with the movie. That is the reason why I felt this film wasn´t cohesive and was too messy. It is a shame because I loved Lee Daniels´s previous film Precious, but this is a huge step backwards from that movie.
The film was based on Peter Dexter´s novel of the same name and it takes place in South Florida during the late 60´s. The story centers around the life of a reporter named Ward (Matthew McConaughey) who decides to return to his hometown to investigate a case about an inmate on death row. Ward is trying to catch a big break on this story involving the murder of a local police officer and the conviction of the supposed murderer, Hilary Van Wetter (John Cusack). Apparently there were some irregularities in the trial and Ward has decided to investigate the case with his partner, Yardley (David Oyelowo). They heard about the story through Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) who happens to be sort of a death row groupie, who corresponds with these men through letters. She falls in love with Hilary and believes he is innocent, so she contacts Ward and Yardley and convinces them to chase this career making story. Together they work on the case in Ward´s father´s home where his younger brother, Jack (Zac Efron), still lives. Jack becomes the driver for the group taking them to the different locations they are investigating and immediately falls in love with Charlotte despite knowing she´s attracted to the psychotic Hilary. The story is narrated by the house maid, Anita (Macy Gray).
The film does succeed in bringing the hot and steamy Florida weather on the screen and only watching the characters move make us feel hot and sweaty as well. This trashy film reminds us of some early 70´s film noir movies with Nicole Kidman playing this sort of modern femme fatale character. Her gritty performance stands in deep contrast to Efron´s sweet innocence. I had no problem with the cast. I thought they all gave strong performances, especially Nicole Kidman and John Cusack as these two sort of psychotic characters. I had never seen these actors in a role like this before. My major problem with the film was the messy story which ended up wandering all over the place and getting lost in the mix of everything. It is no wonder this film ended up getting booed at Cannes because it does fail to connect the major plot points. It was just a little too pulpy and steamy for my taste and it didn’t work at all because I really disliked all these characters.