Eldest son Ward Jansen is a star reporter for a Miami newspaper and has returned home with close friend Yardley to investigate a racial murder case. Younger brother Jack Jansen has returned home after a failed stint at university as a star swimmer. To help give his life some direction, Ward gives Jack a job on their investigation as their driver. But into the mix comes the fiancée of the imprisoned convict who stirs up confusing feelings of love and lust for the young Jack. Meanwhile, Ward and Yardley's investigation stirs up deep-rooted issues of race and acceptance which could cause serious consequences for everyone involved. Written by
In southern Florida where a racial murder case turns into a coming-of-age character study
"The Paperboy" has received some harsh criticism, not just divisive but mostly negative reviews. I'm happy to provide an opposite perspective but it is worth mentioning that most critiques seem to come from a superficial point-of-view. Anita (Macy Gray) as the narrator takes us down to small town life in Florida in the late 1960s where she worked as a maid for the white, upper class Jansen family. Nothing is as it seems.
The youngest brother, Jack Jansen (Zac Efron), has just returned home after a short stint as a star swimmer at university. He's lost with no purpose and no real desire. The elder brother, Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey), is a reporter at the Miami Times and has just returned home to investigate a racial murder case. To help him, he has brought home his newspaper partner and friend Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo). Yardley comes from an upper class, African American family from London.
The film has found a place in time where racism was rampant in some parts of the world and barely an issue in other parts of the world. It was definitely an issue for Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) who apparently committed murder due to race, but he could also have been unjustly imprisoned due to race.
At this point in the film, most viewers are still reeling from the introduction of all the actors. Cusack is playing a Southern white trash, murderous hick and Nicole Kidman is playing his white trash fiancée, Charlotte Bless, who likes chasing after imprisoned criminals. Viewers remain in a state of shock when Hillary and Charlotte decide to pleasure themselves upon first meeting, with all other paper players present. Contrary to popular belief, that scene was not just for pure shock value, it was also used to help establish who the innocent characters are and who deserves our sympathies.
The most intuitive and considerate character, Ward, has also returned home to look after his little brother. Their mother died when they were young and with a stubborn and distant father and scheming step-mother- to-be, Jack is prone to misunderstood loneliness, and Ward hires him as a driver for their newspaper article on Hillary's case. Jack is more innocent and sheltered than his age suggests. He's never been in love and he doesn't even know how to find love. So when Charlotte shows up with bleach-blonde hair and a skin-tight, shorter-than-appropriate hooker dress, he's in love. Or infatuation, but he doesn't know the difference, and then the film starts exploring that.
But after all, Jack (Efron) is the title character of "The Paperboy". This film is about him. It also happens to be about love, sex, race, murder and acceptance. It is extreme, chaotic and tragic, but it's not terrible. It's actually a very intelligent film.
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