The Paperboy

A wretched, embarrassing film that completely lacks any significance.

Rating: Can be seen on any screen, but I promise you that you will regret the experience.

The PaperboyWatching The Paperboy at home, it quickly became evident why it died on the screen. Despite its intriguing premise, Director Lee Daniels eventually turns it into little more than a violent, twisted porn extravaganza.

Quite frankly, what interested me from the beginning was its story about two newspaper reporters investigating the guilt of a man sitting on death row in Florida. As a defense lawyer who once watched a man I still consider to be innocent die in Indiana’s electric chair in 1994, this film had obvious significance.

While Matthew McConaughey and David Oyelowo initially do a wonderful job playing the investigative reporters, the film soon devolves into profound silliness. It does little more than focus on Nicole Kidman, playing a loose, attractive floozie who has fallen in love with the inmate solely through an exchange of letters. If it sounds absurd, it is.

Added to the film’s idiocy is the performance of John Cusack, who plays the inmate. Though he may be innocent, he is both deranged and sexually obsessed. He literally demands that Kidman imitate giving him oral sex while he masturbates in the prison visiting room. Given that McConaughey and Oyelowo are forced to watch this, you become as embarrassed for them as you are for yourself.

Unfortunately, though Cusack is eventually released, the brutality of the film only begins. Ms. Kidman’s only reward for her suspected love interest is to become his sexual plaything as he moves her deep into the Florida Everglades. After all, he hunts alligators for a living, so Miami Beach is out of the question.

Director Daniels transforms McConaughey from a crack investigator into a disturbed gay man with a propensity for being abused. I’d tell you what happens to him when he holes up in a motel room with two thugs that he has met in a bar, but I suspect that most of you know where this hopeless adventure for McConaughey is going to end up.

I must say that Mr. McConaughey had an intriguing year in film. He gave some sterling performances in both Bernie and Magic Mike, and his deviant performance in Killer Joe was unforgettable. He captures much of those performances here, although the tawdry ending must disappoint him as much as it does the audience.

Ironically, Zac Efron is the one actor who stands out in this humiliating film. He plays McConaughey’s brother, a young man booted out of college and looking for direction. Unfortunately, he passionately falls for the sleazy Ms. Kidman, which gives you a strong indication of the disaster that awaits.

Mr. Daniels received wide praise for his acclaimed Precious (2012), but this film clearly shows that he has shoved his artistic car into reverse. Both films force the audience to stare at the underbelly of life in our dear country, but The Paperboy has none of Precious’ inherent grace or charm.

To put it another way, Mr. Daniels obviously has talent dealing with young people as opposed to adults. Maybe he should learn a lesson from the fact that his The Paperboy was abysmally woeful while Paperman won the Oscar for the Best Animated Short Film. If he had just used the same title, maybe he could have figured out a way to make cinematic Shinola out of shit. (Pardon my tasteless comments, but the film deserved it!)