I see Lee Daniels's colourful, compelling, brave, imaginative & outstanding The Paperboy The best cult film of 2013 - The Paperboy Film Review aka The Paperboy delivers

Posted by Craig Grobler on Google+ On Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Establishing ShotAt its Cannes debut The Paperboy may have either caused the audience to run riot with contempt or stand in ovation for a day and a half - depending on whose account of events you have heard. Either way I absolutely loved Lee Daniels's  The Paperboy. It plays like To Kill a Mockingbird via the dark (very dark) and twisted underbelly of a good Jim Thompson, Carl Hiaasen or Charles Willeford novel.

My literary analogy here is superfluous because  Lee Daniels's film is based on a book by Peter Dexter, a respected author who also wrote the screenplay. Dexter's life is seemingly more interesting than any film or book could be and echoes some eerie similarities to events portrayed in The Paperboy -  including the notable (and beggars belief) evening which has become known as  the "Grays Ferry incident". It all ends with boxer Randall "Tex" Cobb* rescuing Pete Dexter from certain death by mob - but breaking his hand in the process and missing a fight against Muhammad Ali which in effect ended Cobb's very promising boxing career. More about Randall "Tex" Cobb and why you probably already know this larger than life character already.

the paperboy film poster
The Paperboy Film Poster
Anyway I digress. I loved everything about The Paperboy it has all the hallmarks of a great Cult film: its own aesthetic look and feel, brilliant performances, an original plot with multiple levels, underpinned with a socially relevant undertow, inappropriate humour, a compelling soundtrack, overt sexuality, engaging extreme characters, tragic darkness and humour in the same breath.

Video: The Establishing Shot: THE PAPERBOY - TRAILER - 15 MARCH 2013

The Paperboy deserves to be more than a Cult film but seemingly some may fail to engage with some of the more extreme scenes and personalities portrayed but I suspect that it will find its legs (and run) when it moves on to home release. Possibly I enjoyed The Paperboy as much as I did as it spoke to me - having grown up in a very similar environment with large divides between, rich, poor, black, white, conservative and liberals - all with much more moving under the veneer.

The Paperboy Nicole Kidman as wanton Charlotte Bless
The Paperboy Nicole Kidman as wanton Charlotte Bless
Lee Daniels masterfully paints the world of The Paperboy in a deliciously surreal swirl of period; sensibilities, colour and sounds - the tragedy here of course is that its not surreal at all - just a little close to the bone. Even its title alludes to a pejorative term used liberally in parts where some sort of desperate coping mechanism is employed in an attempt at dissociative power play - but never in our modern and intelligent polite society of course.

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If The Paperboy struggles to find an audience I would be rather bemused as the same people who tear down films for lacking originality seem to feel The Paperboy is a bridge too far - failing to see the genius pearls behind Lee Daniels's The Paperboy.

The Paperboy Ward Jansen, Matthew McConaughey Jack Jansen, Zac Efron & Yardley Acheman, David Oyelowo on the case
The Paperboy Ward Jansen, Matthew McConaughey Jack Jansen, Zac Efron & Yardley Acheman, David Oyelowo on the case
The Paperboy follows two brothers:  Ward Jansen (played by Matthew McConaughey), a reporter for the esteemed daily newspaper, The Miami Times, and Jack Jansen (played by Zac Efron), a recent college dropout who lives in a small town in central Florida with their father, W.W. Jansen (played by Scott Glenn).  When Ward shows up with his writing partner, Yardley Acheman (played by David Oyelowo), to investigate a story for their paper, Ward asks Jack to drive them around.

The reason Ward is in town is that Charlotte Bless (played by Nicole Kidman), an enigmatic loner who writes to prisoners on death row, has convinced them that Hillary Van Wetter (played by John Cusack), an unsavoury alligator hunter from the backwoods, was wrongly convicted at a trial that took place near their hometown.

The Paperboy Nicole Kidman upskirt
The Paperboy Nicole Kidman as Charlotte Bless
As the investigation unravels, it becomes clear that these brothers are on a journey that is filled with betrayal.  The only thing that remains constant is that there is this strange, beautiful woman who falls in love with killers and her passion could be everyone’s downfall.


The Paperboy works for me on two levels; as a hard hitting noir-esque crime thriller set in the swamplands of Florida with a backdrop full of dangerous and murky set ups (& alligators) and personalities that twist and turn as Matthew McConaughey's Ward Jansen gets closer to the truth whilst trying to free John Cusack's Hillary Van Wetter from death row.

The Paperboy John Cusack as Hillary Van Wetter & Matthew McConaughey's Ward Jansen discuss his case
The Paperboy John Cusack as Hillary Van Wetter & Matthew McConaughey's Ward Jansen discuss his case

It also one of those rare treats - a coming of age tale that works for me.  As a rule of thumb I generally struggle with POV coming of age tales as I find that if you don't buy into a particular perspective the story crumbles but Zac Efron bring a charismatic exuberance to Jack Jansen's aimlessness, buoyed by own arrogance and on the verge of manhood unsure of which way to go but with enough selfish inertia to push him forward. As the world around him changes and becomes more pertinent as he awakens into adulthood. Efron bounces off the others characters magnificently bringing idealism and youthful righteousness to the core of The Paperboy.

The Paperboy  Jack Jansen, Zac Efron & Yardley Acheman, David Oyelowo fight it out
The Paperboy  Jack Jansen, Zac Efron & Yardley Acheman, David Oyelowo fight it out

The two levels come together in an extraordinary tale full of colourful and engaging characters fleshed out and brought to life by incredibly brave performances across the board. Between the actors, Daniels's direction and Joe Klotz's editing there is not a beat missed as Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack and David Oyelowo all get their teeth into the extreme personalities of their characters, playing against type.

The Paperboy  Ward Jansen, Matthew McConaughey & Yardley Acheman are going to get to the bottom of this
The Paperboy  Ward Jansen, Matthew McConaughey & Yardley Acheman are going to get to the bottom of this
Video: The Establishing Shot: THE PAPERBOY FEATURETTE - 15 MARCH 2013

A special mention for Matthew McConaughey building on his outstanding performance from Killer Joe to bring this, his finest performance in recent years to screen (I can't wait for MUD if it continues this streak). He is absolutely sublime and when I said that you have never seen McConaughey like this before in Killer JoeThe Paperboy trumps it and then some. You will be squirming in discomfort.

The Paperboy Ward Matthew McConaughey & Jack Jansen, Zac Efron deep in redneck country
The Paperboy Ward Matthew McConaughey & Jack Jansen, Zac Efron deep in the bayous
Even Macy Gray who may or may not be acting is incredibly likeable and brings depth and charm to her role as Anita Chester - the Jansen's maid - lifting the relationship between Jack and her Anita to a warm safe place wrapped in nostalgia.

Video: The Establishing Shot: THE PAPERBOY - THE RING CLIP - 15 MARCH 2013 ZAC EFRON MACY GRAY

The Paperboy is sexy (in the trashiest of ways), colourful, compelling, brave and imaginative. If I had to be critical I struggled a little with the shifts in mood and events but this all became part of the charm of Lee Daniel's absolutely spellbinding and outstanding The Paperboy. It goes straight into The Establishing Shot's Top 10 film of 2013 at No.2.


*In case the name Randall "Tex" Cobb is familiar yes he is the same Randall Tex Cobb who fought one of the most brutal boxing fights ever broadcast on live TV. Cobb lost the championship to Larry  Holmes but refused to quit or go down and his beating from Holmes was so severe that leading sports presenter Howard Cossel stopped covering boxing.  Cobb went on to star in various films bringing his own wit and charm to each role as well as become a champion MMA fighter.

I can't find the exact clip but he is indelibly planted in my mind as Leonard Smalls the biker bounty hunter from the Cohen Brothers Raising Arizona - He was horrible, a warthog from hell.

Video: Raising Arizona - Movie Trailer 

Video: Fletch Lives (3/10) Movie CLIP - Molesting a Dead Horse (1989) HD  

The Paperboy is in cinemas this Friday 15 March 2013

A reporter returns to his Florida hometown to investigate a case involving a death row inmate.

Director: Lee Daniels
Writers: Lee Daniels (screenplay), Peter Dexter (novel)
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, David Oyelowo & Scott Glenn


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