BY JENNA SIMPSON
I saw the trailer for The Paperboy last fall at the movies, and I was very excited by it. The clip called it “pulpy” and “sweaty,” and it looked really different from other movies I’d seen lately; the cinematography looked like something out of Instagram, and the plot looked kind of crazy. Nicole Kidman was wearing a lot of trashy blue eyeshadow, Matthew McConaughey had a Jheri Curl and an eye patch, John Cusack just looked totally insane, and to top it all off, Macy Gray was there. In a nutshell, I couldn’t wait.
As it turns out, The Paperboy is pretty much exactly as it seems in the preview. It is campy, pulpy, sweaty, Instagram-y, swampy and crazy. Set in 1969 Florida (a.k.a.. Swampland), the film focuses on a woman’s (Nicole Kidman) efforts to get her fiancé (John Cusack) released from prison on a civil liberties-type procedural issue. She goes to a well-respected journalist (Matthew McConaughey) for help making her story public. The journalist’s younger brother (Zac Efron) falls in love with her as he helps his brother investigate the story.
The performances are pretty mesmerizing. With the exception of Macy Gray, who is always kind of mesmerizing because she is so strange, we have really just never seen these actors play these kinds of roles. Efron as a sexually frustrated and lovesick puppy dog (with a decidedly not southern, but New England, accent)? Cusack as a brutal psycho killer? McConaughey as a down-low gay man? Kidman as an oversexed, overbleached, white trash nutter who writes to jail birds and falls in love with convicted murderers? Can you say FASCINATING?
Particularly fascinating is Kidman, whose performance is a real departure from her usual ice queen persona. She definitely deserved that Golden Globe nomination, even though there was no way she would ever win for this particular film. But oh man, there’s one scene, when she goes to visit John Cusack for the first time in prison … and no, it was not the scene where she pees on Efron (which was actually not a sex thing at all, although there are at least two other disturbing sex scenes).
In addition to the solid performances, the movie brings up a lot of social issues: gay rights, racism, gender and domestic violence, class issues, and even criminal justice issues, and it doesn’t do too bad a job, either.
The Paperboy walks a fine line between unusual and uncomfortable. Sometimes it crosses that line. But overall, don’t expect too much from it and you’ll probably be fine. As for me, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Whatever else it is, The Paperboy is highly entertaining.