Acting is about taking risks with those constantly conforming to type not having much career longevity. The Paperboy stands out as its well-known cast bravely unburden the shackles of former roles. Based on Pete Dexter’s novel, they revel in its steamy situations in the Deep South during the 1960’s. Its time of revolution and changing societal mores are explored and offers a chance for its performers to go beyond their established screen personas.
When a racist Sherriff is murdered, Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) is arrested for the crime. Proclaiming innocence, he tells his story to journalists Ward (Mathew McConaughey) and Yardley (David Oyelowo). Ward’s brother Jack (Zac Efron) joins in searching for the truth. Also helping is local girl Charlotte (Nicole Kidman) who claims to have vital evidence. Things aren’t what they seem in the dusty back-alleys of the South, with unsavoury characters preventing the facts from being revealed.
The Paperboy features some of the bravest performances seen. With Kidman’s kinky character leading the field, she and her co-stars give eye-opening renditions of their roles. All seem to enjoy partaking in Paperboy’s trashy pulp novel-style atmospherics with the Southern bayou hiding secrets deeper than their sinful souls. It’s pretty difficult believing in what transpires due to their over the top characterisations even if they make such ghastly happenings luridly watch-able.
Paperboy’s main problem is its unfocussed narrative. At once a crime-drama and then a coming of age tale, it never settles on one strand. There are several intriguing ideas to be seen although none come to any fruition. Much blame can be attributed to Lee Daniel’s bad direction which ponders on the story’s sleazier elements instead of examining the more interesting human dramas. Events quickly spiral to a messy conclusion although reaching it is often garishly enjoyable due to its gaudy nature.
Despite the actors giving it their all, The Paperboy’s failings are many. It has some moments which are unique and given its often bizarre flourishes The Paperboy at least takes some risks other wouldn’t dare.
Rating out of 10: 6