Review: The Paperboy (2013)


“Better be late and be right than be first and be wrong… boy!”

A sexually and racially charged film noir from Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels (Precious), The Paperboy takes audiences deep into the backwaters of steamy 1960s South Florida, as investigative reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) and his partner Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo) chase a sensational, career-making story. With the help of Ward’s younger brother Jack (Zac Efron) and sultry death-row groupie Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), the pair tries to prove violent swamp-dweller Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) was framed for the murder of a corrupt local sheriff. Based on the provocative bestselling novel by Pete Dexter (Mulholland Falls, Rush), The Paperboy peels back a sleepy small town’s decades-old façade of Southern gentility to reveal a quagmire of evil as dark as a Florida bayou. – Rotten Tomatoes 

The Paperboy is a film that has attracted a bit of attention, and most of it not for the right reasons. It’s had more negative press than I had imagined, but after seeing it I honestly can’t see what is wrong with it. To me, The Paperboy is precisely what it intends to be; a southern scuzz-filled story that happily wallows in its own filthy sweat. Honestly, after seeing this you’ll want to have a shower.

The film itself is pretty slowly paced, but that complemented the sweltering southern feel. I mean, if it was that hot you wouldn’t be rushing around either. The story is very ropey, I’m not going to deny that, but it has enough to string things together. Throughout we have Anita (Macy Gray) who is the black housekeeper who narrates key points; she’s extremely good and is the glue that holds the film together.

Zac Efron is suitably dependable — I can’t really comment on performances to compare as I think this is the first Efron film I’ve seen. But in this I was reasonably impressed with his role. I thought his chemistry with McConaughey was one of the highlights, and I believed completely in their brotherly bond. Talking of McConaughey, it’s strange now that all I can say about the man is in regards to his fantastic acting. Seriously, where was this man 10 years ago? Wasting away doing terrible rom-coms it seems. I predict another decent year for the man.

Nicole Kidman is an actress I feel indifferent towards; I can take her or leave her. A film won’t persuade me either way with her name on the poster. She was very melodramatic which, to be fair, was absolutely perfect for the role. It’s camp and utterly trashy, but so is the whole film. She also manages to do the most artistic golden shower ever committed to film! I thought John Cusack was good in his ‘villain’ role and makes a good antagonist. His films have been chequered over the last few years but I think this is one of his better ones.

The Paperboy might not be brilliant, but I believe it has gotten an unfair kicking. It’s set in the 1960s but it feels like one of those ‘70s exploitation style films and embraces it. It’s wonderfully trashy, dirty, sleazy, grungy and sweaty – you simply can’t take your eyes off it! It’s so filthy that after seeing The Paperboy you will need to take a long hot shower straight away.


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