Director: Lee Daniels
Writers: Lee Daniels, Peter Dexter
Starring: Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, Macy Gray
In his follow up film to ‘Precious’, director Lee Daniels takes on Peter Dexter’s bestselling novel ‘The Paperboy’. I had a chance to attend the red carpet screening at TIFF where actors Zac Efron and David Oyelowo and director Lee Daniels were in attendance and did a Q&A with the audience after the film.
Set in the south in 1969, Miami Times reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) and his colleague Yardeley Acheman (David Oyelowo) return to his hometown to investigate the case of death row inmate Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack). Ward is aided by his younger brother Jack Jansen (Zac Efron) and Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), Van Wetter’s prison penpal groupie. Jack is instantly smitten with Charlotte and struggles with his feelings for her. The story is recounted and narrated by Anita (Macy Gray), the Jansens’ housekeeper.
Far removed from his ‘High School Musical’ days, Efron does a wonderful job in his first grown up role. His scenes with Grey are particularly warm and touching. Meanwhile, Cusack gives an unusually dark and creepy performance as a sociopathic murderer and Kidman proves she can hold her own playing the role of a sassy white-trash hustler.
The movie deals with a multitude of issues including homosexuality, racism, and sexuality, and Daniels pulls out all the stops, including scenes with a golden shower and a violent rape. The scenes appear to be here purely for shock value and making the audience uncomfortable, as they served little purpose in advancing the plot. Despite the solid performances from an A-list cast, ‘The Paperboy’ suffers from an underdeveloped storyline which becomes messy and confusing.
‘The Paperboy’ opens for limited release on October 5.