A shockingly lurid tale of lust, murder and betrayal set in 1960s Florida, steamy thriller The Paperboy doesn’t make a lick of sense, but there’s something undeniably compelling about its starry cast’s daringly go-for-broke performances.
Nicole Kidman and John Cusack both let rip in roles that couldn’t be further removed from their usual screen images – she as a tawdry blonde and he as the vile death row prisoner with whom she is sexually obsessed. And Zac Efron, as the college dropout who lusts in turn after Kidman’s character, and Matthew McConaughey, as his reporter brother, have their startling moments, too.
But director Lee Daniels, the Oscar-nominated maker of Precious, fragments the narrative and throws in so many tricksy directorial touches that the whole thing becomes an annoyingly indulgent mess. Had he stuck with his source, Pete Dexter’s 1995 novel, and let Efron’s character narrate events, the story might have come into focus. Instead, bafflingly, he’s given the narrating task to Macy Gray’s maid, whose position on the margins of the action only makes things more confusing.
But in coming up with a jumble of eye-wateringly outlandish scenes (most bizarre: Kidman pees over the supine Efron to heal his blistering jellyfish stings) rather than a coherent whole, Daniels may have created a veritable trash-cinema classic.
Released on Blu-ray and DVD by Lions Gate Home Entertainment on Monday 29th July.
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