The Paperboy

Directed By: Lee Daniels

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, Macy Gray, and Scott Glenn

Every once in a while, I catch a flick that leaves me feeling weird afterward.  I don't know quite how to describe it.  A film of this nature leaves me with seven words streaming through my mind: "What the hell did I just watch?".  These flicks typically come out of left field, and it takes a while for me to process everything I've witnessed.  There's just some strange stuff that typically goes down in these movies.  Tonight, Lee Daniels's The Paperboy just happens to be that weird one.

Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) is a woman who always falls for the bad guys.  She likes a man who's dangerous.  That's why she corresponds via mail with incarcerated lovers.  When she starts writing to convicted murderer Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack), a man destined for the electric chair, she learns that her man may be innocent and seeks to save his life.  To shed light on this situation, Charlotte turns to Miami Times reporters Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) and Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo) to investigate the murder for which Hillary was convicted and to see whether they can dig up any evidence that would exonerate him.  Ward's younger brother Jack (Zac Efron) also helps in the investigation.  Meanwhile, Jack begins to fall for Charlotte.

The Paperboy has given me plenty of reasons to call it a weird one.  On this night, I've witnessed a woman giving imaginary blow jobs, a woman urinating on a man, and an alligator getting gutted like a fish.  Keep in mind that this is what I choose to tell you in this review.  Imagine what I've opted to leave out.  Lee Daniels has crafted one crazy movie.  While The Paperboy is one wild ride, there's just one problem.  It's not a good one.

Daniels has put together a film that has no singular voice or overarching tone.  At times, we're dealing with a movie that some might consider hypersexual as we watch Nicole Kidman move from one man to another in a vicious downward spiral.  At others, we're watching an ultra-violent film in which John Cusack is auditioning for the role of Jason Voorhees.  With a machete in hand, he swaps Camp Crystal Lake for a rather drab swamp. We could even be watching a period piece that tries to capture the essence of the 60s— the deep racism, the vibrant music, and the culture.  With all this happening, I don't know what the hell Lee Daniels is trying to accomplish with this flick.  I don't think he does either.

While Zac Efron is a little out of his range as an actor at times, most of the cast delivers solid performances.  Nicole Kidman and Macy Gray are the standouts.  Kidman brings a raw sexual energy to the film as Charlotte Bless.  Anything sensual in The Paperboy involves this woman.  Gray provides the conscience of this very strange movie.  With strong narration and solid acting, she brings some emotional gravitas as well as a small dose of comic relief.

The Paperboy is a movie that is anything but what I actually expected.  I was planning on seeing this straightforward thriller that just happens to take place in the 60s.  What I got is a movie with no identity that's one strange ride.  The Paperboy gets a 0.09% rating.  You'll need something strong for this one.  Grab some scotch.