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  Paperboy, The Swamp Fever
Year: 2012
Director: Lee Daniels
Stars: Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, Scott Glenn, Ned Bellamy, Nealla Gordon, Macy Gray, Edrick Browne, Kevin Waterman, Danny Hanneman, Peter Murnik, John P. Fertitta, Jay Oliver, Gary Clarke, Ava Bogle
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Anita Chester (Macy Gray) was a maid for a rich white family in Miami, whose head of the household, W.W. Jansen (Scott Glenn), distributes the city newspaper there. She is being interviewed about the murky events which happened one summer, connected to the murder some time before of the Sheriff who may have been very unpopular with large sections of the population, especially the black population, but nevertheless had his death kick off a manhunt where Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) was arrested, convicted and put on Death Row. But Jansen's lawyer son Ward (Matthew McConaughey) has other ideas...

After the success of his adaptation of Precious, including Oscar nominations and wins, you might have thought the world was director Lee Daniels' oyster and he would have the pick of any project he cared to turn his hand to. Which made it all the more baffling why The Paperboy, based on the bestseller by Peter Dexter, was what he apparently thought was ideal material for him because the results were barely coherent, resembling rehearsal footage punctuated by interest-grabbing but fatally ludicrous scenes seeming to be created as talking points to encourage word of mouth "You gotta see this! You won't believe it!" recommendations.

Daniels, a man who had guided Mo'Nique to an Academy Award for acting, here had no control over his cast whatsoever, leaving them floundering in a welter of terrible Deep South accents and behaviour which was impossible to fathom, never mind credit as that of any kind of person you could relate to. Our actual main character was another of the Jansen clan, Jack, played by Zac Efron in an effort to break out of the lightweight pretty boy roles he had made his name with, offering what was described as a coming of age yarn for him to try. However, evidently nobody had told Daniels that Efron wanted to flex his acting muscles, as the performer was paraded around in front of the camera in various states of undress.

It certainly made a change for an actor rather than an actress to be treated as a piece of meat by the movie they were in, but whether this was any kind of progress was up for debate. Add to that the fact that Efron had to be pissed on by Nicole Kidman (presumably some movie magic was implemented here) and you had a part making waves for him for the wrong reasons. Kidman was in possession of the worst accent, reaching critical levels early on and never recovering with stylings so egregious it would be difficult to believe she was a professional of some skill, taking the role of Van Wetter's fiancée who has been corresponding with him while he's in prison. Their first meeting face to face was preposterously misconceived.

So Nicole had two dreadful scenes to make her notorious here, one where she pissed on Efron's jellyfish stings at the beach and the other where she and Cusack share a moment of joint masturbation at the visiting room of the jail, in full view of three other characters at least. David Oyelowo was Ward's assistant, bearing the brunt of racial condescension from the bigoted characters, but at least having more to do with the plot than anything Macy Gray did, who not only narrates things she couldn't possibly have seen, but has no influence on what happens, so why was she being interviewed? As if lusting after Zac with his camera wasn't enough, Daniels really appeared to have a grudge against McConaughey judging by the amount of punishment Ward had to put up with, as if we were meant to be as outraged by the anti-homosexual business doled out as much as the racism. Add to that a pro-death penalty message as we can see no good reason for releasing the drooling Wetter, and you had a film promising trashy fun, yet delivering indigestible stodge. Music by Mario Grigorov.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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