Review of The Paperboy

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Lee Daniels adapts Pete Dexter's novel in this dramatic thriller, set in 1960's Florida. A man (John Cusack) convicted of killing a seedy sheriff is given a new life when a female pen pal (Nicole Kidman) enlists the aid of two journalists (Matthew McConaughey & Zac Efron) to try and get him off death row.
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Movie Review: "The Paperboy"

--Rating: R (strong action and bloody violence throughout, and some language)
Length: 107 minutes
Release date: Oct. 17, 2012
Directed by: Lee Daniels
Genre: Thriller

Most reviewers are describing "The Paperboy" as a movie about a Florida reporter who comes home to investigate the case of a death row inmate. In general, this is very true, but a closer look at the film reveals more of its hidden treasures.

"The Paperboy" is set in the 1960s in a small town in Florida. Jack Jensen (Zac Efron) has been thrown out of college, and comes back home to find his elder brother Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) investigating the case surrounding a death row inmate. The prisoner, Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) has been accused of murdering a local sheriff, but the investigative reporter thinks the accusation is false. Ward decides to do an exposé on the case and his younger brother starts to follow him around.

That is the general story, but there are subplots that develop from the main narrative. Several relationships are explored in the film. There is the relationship between Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) and the death row inmate as well as that between Jack and Anita (Macy Gray), the family's housekeeper. Bless has always had a thing for convicts but this time she is engaged to Van Wetter.

"The Paperboy" is based on the 1995 novel, by the same name, written by Pete Dexter. It is directed by Lee Daniels and is set to be released in theaters on Oct. 17, 2012. Daniels is a veteran award winning actor, producer and director, mostly remembered for producing the film "Monster's Ball" and directing the movie "Precious." The latter received six Academy Award nominations and won two of them, and only time will tell what the talented director's current movie will win.

McConaughey had his breakout role in the 1993 film "Dazed and Confused" but many movie goers know him for his starling performance in "Magic Mike," "The Lincoln Lawyer," and "Failure to Launch," among many other films. Efron, a singer and actor, is well known for his role in "High School Musical" (Disney Channel Original); Cusack has appeared in more than fifty movies. Kidman is an acclaimed actress with many notable films to her name, including very successful ones such as "Cold Mountain" and "Australia."

As hinted above, one of the subplots of this movie involves relationships and particularly race relationships in Florida during the era of Civil Rights. It can be said that this is exactly the kind of treatment Dexter's novel needed to turn it into a movie. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the supposedly genteel small Florida town is not so sleepy and innocent after all. There is an underlying quagmire of mystery and evil that lurks below the calm surface.

One of the best things about this movie has to be Kidman's acting. She exudes both physical and conceptual mystery, and her sex appeal is unrestrained. You could almost say that the success of the movie can (at least partly) be attributed to her many qualities as an actress. There is a particular scene that audiences and reviewers cannot stop watching and over-analyzing. This is the scene where Charlotte has to urinate on Jack after the latter is stung by a jellyfish. This scene has been described as gross, ridiculous, or even faintly erotic-depending on who is delivering the description. This film exudes a Southern-fried atmosphere that is extremely sexually charged.

"The Paperboy" is a film that is very hard to categorize. It is becoming increasingly difficult to pin down as having charged drama, sexual appeal or comical excesses. However, who is to say that it is not all of the above? Whatever description the film gets from either fans or critics, it is clear that those who love weird crime thrillers filled with sexual innuendos will find it irresistible.
There are also the underlying hints of attraction to notoriety. The real world has many cases of those who are attracted to notoriety (perhaps in their minds: celebrity). Charlotte is attracted to the prisoner's danger and mystery; Anita is Jack's forbidden fruit, albeit a willing one.

The themes examined by "The Paperboy" are not new; it is just that Daniels gives them new angles. Elia Kazan's movie "Baby Doll" and other works of art have tried to capture the delicious decadence of the Southern regions. It can be said that Dexter's novel is not all that unique. It is just that, in Daniels portrayal of the movie, a few things have changed. For example, some of the novel's white characters are portrayed as black. All the same, the impressive cast of this movie (particularly Kidman) succeeds in bringing the story to life.

Rating: 3 out of 5