Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Paperboy (2012)

In the 1960’s, Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) and Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo) travel to Moat County, Florida. Ward is an investigative reporter and Yardley is his trusted colleague. Together, both men try to solve the case of Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack), a death row inmate accused of murdering a prestigious local sheriff.

Ward’s younger brother, Jack (Zac Efron) is a paperboy. Jack tags along for the investigation, and Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) lends a helping hand. After sharing a strange and trusted pen pal relationship, Charlotte developed an obsession for Hillary, but Charlotte’s presence could ruin the investigation. Meanwhile, Jack seeks advice from his maid and best friend, Anita (Macy Gray), as he struggles to control feelings of anger for his dad’s new girlfriend, and constant urges for Charlotte.

I have mixed feelings for director Lee Daniels’ work. I enjoyed Precious. It’s an emotional drama, and Daniels’ dark and gritty style provided the perfect touch. But Shadowboxer was an enormous clusterfuck (story wise and directing style). Unfortunately, you won’t see Precious Lee Daniels here. Instead, you’ll see Shadowboxer Lee Daniels. Daniels is unfocused, and his work behind the camera doesn’t help this film at all.

Cusack and Kidman deliver the best performances. Cusack is spot on, as the deranged scumbag, and Kidman really nails the trashy whore side of Charlotte’s character. But towards the end, Kidman showcases some believable vulnerability. McConaughey is solid as Ward, and Zac Efron is OKAY as Jack. I’ll give Efron credit for a strong effort, but as far as the quality of his performance goes, he couldn’t measure up to his fellow cast members. Plus, Efron’s efforts are overshadowed by a series of random and unnecessary shots of Jack in his underwear, and Efron’s most memorable scene involves Kidman peeing on Jack in an attempt to cure jellyfish wounds.

The Paperboy showed signs of promise at first, but the overload of sub-plots created too much confusion. Is this supposed to be a murder mystery? A love story? A film about racism? The story quickly devolves into a jumbled mess. Here’s a quick rundown of The Paperboy’s messy story:


-Ward and Yardley are trying to solve a murder mystery

-Jack is in love with Charlotte. Although, Charlotte’s a grown woman with serious issues, and Jack is a teenager, so the relationship can’t work for obvious reasons. But Jack continues to pursue the love of his life anyway.

-Ward has been living a secret lifestyle as a homosexual, and Jack tries to comprehend this shocking revelation.

-During a fight, Jack calls Yardley a “nigger,” and Jack’s racist outburst puts a strain on his relationship with Anita.

-Charlotte wants a sexual relationship with Hillary, but she changes her mind, when Hillary shows his aggressive/psychotic side. Charlotte tries to leave Hillary, but Hillary murders her.

-Jack can’t get over Charlotte, and with Ward’s help, they try to rescue Charlotte. Eventually, the brothers discover Charlotte’s murder. Jack is devastated, and when he tries to protect his brother, Ward is murdered by Hillary.

-Oh, and they never reveal the culprit, who killed the local sheriff.

**End Spoilers**

Trying to understand the true nature of this film almost gave me a headache, and The Paperboy’s erratic story is beyond irritating.

The cast deserves praise, and this film features some genuinely disturbing moments (the brutal aftermath of a rape, murder, etc.), but I can’t give The Paperboy a positive score. The Paperboy was too melodramatic for my taste, and the convoluted screenplay causes too many annoying shifts between the excessive storylines.

Final Rating: 3/10

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