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A quick dip in the Louisiana swamps
socrates9926 January 2013
First off, I'd heard of Zac Efron, somewhere, I thought he was some teeny bopper's fantasy. But this kid is no lightweight. He's quite good here in an ultra adult film, as is everyone else, all playing against type: Kidman as a slut, McConaughey as a sexually troubled man, John Cusack as a backwoods maniac, and Macy Gray as a lovable servant.

My wife hated the movie but couldn't take her eyes off of it. And by its end, we were both thinking that was quite a ride. What more do we want from our movies? Everyone here, maybe a little less so with Efron who's the novice, abandons themselves to their parts. I didn't even catch Gray in a misstep though she's a novice too. They all channel their people quite successfully in a well-directed though not for the kids, movie that manages to shine a light on a south that actually was and for all I know still is in places.
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Powerful film about love, honor, redemption, and connection
karenaziz2296 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
It's hard for me to understand the scorn that has been heaped upon this film. You'd think Lee Daniels had created a film praising Hitler, the Antichrist, and communism. Also, it's hard to understand why some critics have focused on certain aspects of the film. Zac Efron in his "tidy whities" or Nicole Kidman urinating on Mr. Efron. The level of titillation that is being shown would be credible in a 7-year old, but not for adult critics. To focus on these rather minor points shows a deep misunderstanding of what this film is about.

So, what is this film about? While I think it's hard to reduce a work of art to the level of a short essay, I am so fed up with what has been written about this film that I shall attempt to do so.

For starters, I believe this film reflects the world as it is, and not as we want it to be. I think this film is saying that our deepest need is for love, connection, and moral truth but these needs become warped when filtered through the lies,despair, and degradation that American society has offered up as the truth. Mainstream films never go here, and while some indie films touch on this theme, they don't usually go for as deep a dive. The only other director that I can think of even approaching this level of an unblinking stare into the abyss is Todd Soldendz.

The characters in the film consist of Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey), a journalist who has come back to his home town to investigate whether or not Hilary Van Wetter (John Cusack), a man on death row, received a fair trial. Ward's attention has been drawn to this case by Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), a woman who has maintained a jail house correspondence with Mr. Van Wetter, and who believes she is in love with him. Ward brings with him a colleague, Yardley Acheman (David Oyewolo), a black journalist from London. They are assisted by Ward's younger brother, Jack Jansen (Zac Efron), who still lives at home. The Jansen family maid, Anita Chester (Macy Gray) is Jack's confidant and a stand in for the mother that left the family several years ago.

Each character's story is that of connection or love that has been twisted or thwarted for various reasons. Jack's playful relationship with the family maid can never be a relation between equals because of his racism. Jack can see that she is his natural ally and friend, but his racism denies them both a deeper connection. As brothers, Ward and Jack share a powerful bond of affection, but no amount of affection between the brothers can halt Ward's impulse to self-destruction brought on by his inability to accept being homosexual. Charlotte Bless is looking for love and thinks she can find it by writing to men in prison. She receives a response from Van Wetter, and because of its seeming indifference to what other men want from her, she decides this man loves her. The delusion is so powerful that even when real love is offered by Jack, she doesn't understand it. The film doesn't make it clear why she is so self-destructive. We can only assume it is the logical end to the toxic sexism that forces women to see themselves as worthy only if they are desired by a man; any man. Jack's impulse toward love and connection with this woman is driven by the damage done by the abandonment Jack experienced at the hands of his mother.Yardley is a black man trying to have a decent career as a journalist at a time (1969) when racism almost guaranteed that black men remain in lowly positions and did not allow them to rise to their full potential. It is this very racism that makes him betray his colleague and his principals and forces him to assume an identity other than his own. Van Wetter is, I think, a kind of stand in for a force of nature. It is when you face up to these kind of forces that your innermost strengths and weaknesses are revealed.

Through these characters, Lee Daniels is showing the damage done to human relations, forcing people to act in ways that are not pretty to watch, and so the world he shows us is not pretty. It's hard and brutal. But so are the forces that drive these characters. To the critics who hated this film, if you want pretty, watch Lucy and Desi. Mr. Daniels world is the real world; flawed, messy, and hard to look at, but with humanity and the impulse to transcendence at its core.
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The Paperboy really delivers
dgefroh8 January 2013
After watching the movie I was asking myself what the heck did I just watch, but whatever it was I liked it....Now first off this movies is not for everyone, it's extremely sexual, violent, and at times confusing, but it is never dull or plotting. The story is captivating and the actor/actresses pull you in right from the start and never let go until the ending credits roll. The storyline is unique and original with it's crazy cast of characters. Don't try and out think this one, go with the flow and let this backwoods swamp tale take you on an mesmerizing journey into a world you'll be glad you were able to glimpse.

I'm going to say a few things about some of the actors/actresses as they truly do make this a must see movie. First Matthew McConaughey, if he's starting to get type-cast so what, he is absolutely wonderful in this role...bravo. Nicole Kidman is sensational, once again proving no matter what the role she excels and is without a doubt one of the very finest actresses of our time. John Cusack takes on a very different type of character than what you've seen of him the past and really shines and delivers a riveting memorable performance. The entire cast of this movie deserves credit for bring life to this Lee Daniels film.

I've noticed that some reviewers are giving this a less than glowing review, but in my humble but accurate opinion, this is an excellent piece of film making and should be given it's rightful praise for what it is....OUTSTANDING!!
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A meander through murky swamps & society's red-necked underbelly.
TheSquiss4 March 2013
The Paperboy is one of those films that has a fine cast, a director with a track record (Lee Daniels, Oscar nominated for Precious) and an interesting plot, but will be rarely seen and largely forgotten by year's end. Sometimes there is no justice in the film world; just ask Ben Affleck about being overlooked by AMPAS as Best Director this year for Argo.

It's well performed, directed with few flaws and the cinematography hits the spot perfectly, but the trouble is, in terms of ratings, that it isn't easy to sell. Essentially, The Paperboy is a dialogue-driven film about an idealistic reporter, Ward Jansen (Mathew McConaughey), who returns to his hometown in the backwaters of the red-necked American south to investigate the conviction of a man on death row convicted of murdering a sheriff. When Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), the infatuated pen-friend of Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack), the murderer in question, approaches Ward for help, he recruits his bother Jack (Zac Efron) and colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) and sets about investigating ineptitude and corruption surrounding the case.

It isn't a pretty story, it doesn't race along at breakneck speed and it isn't a film that haunts the viewer long after the credits have rolled. It is, however, a thoroughly enjoyable tale that meanders through some murky and terrible swamps, both literal and metaphorical, and will satisfy those with a penchant for the underbelly of society.

Based on a true story and one from the official selection for Cannes 2012, The Paperboy is a dark story that at times is very unpleasant. It goes to places you almost certainly want to avoid in your life. There are no sweet and lovely two-dimensional characters here but 'regular Joes' with twists in their psyches and the relationships between the principal four keeps us on our toes. Each has secrets or sides to their characters they try to hide and each is capable of damaging another willfully and yielding or ignoring their conscience after the event in their own self-harming manner.

Efron shows signs of shaking off his teenybopper roots and it is encouraging to see him take a long and effective step away from such pulp as last year's predictable The Lucky One. At last we see something of a character developing from him, and Jack's relationship with the maid, Anita (Macy Gray), who also narrates much of the story, gives a hint of warmth to an otherwise cold and twisted collection of characters.

Both McConaughey and Kidman stepped away from the 'beautiful' roles sometime ago, though there is still a feeling of them playing 'against type' here, which isn't fair as both are very fine actors with some startling performances in recent years. Here they allow themselves to be engulfed by the perversions of their roles and are eminently watchable though you wouldn't much 'alone time' with either of them. Gray is overlooked largely and, though her Anita is supposed to be the all-seeing character that fills in the gaps for us, she feel inconsequential much of the time.

It is Cusack that startles most of all here. He often frustrates as a fine actor in turkeys (Hot Tub Time Machine, The Raven) and then blindsides us with another performance we've been desperately hoping for. As Hilary he initially causes reserved sympathy from us as he stumbles into the scene disheveled and emotionally crushed. We can almost smell the grease in his hair and his fetid breath and recoil at the thought of Charlotte sharing anything more than a letter with him. But he evolves and repulses as The Paperboy unfolds in a performance every bit the antitheses of his signature role, Martin Q. Blank, but equally memorable. Whilst an unpleasant character with whom to share time, the performance is absorbing. Just please don't let this be the last time we enjoy Cusack for another five years.

Daniels has crafted a film of relationships with confused issues. Life isn't always clear-cut and often it is just plain dirty. Though less successful, financially, than Precious, The Paperboy is a far more mature film with a great deal more flare. Although Daniels hasn't had the courage to shoot it entirely in the style of the period, there are enough references to the late sixties and seventies with split screens and flares to transport us back the era of segregation and Tarantino's favourite word.

It won't last long at the box office, but The Paperboy is a DVD treat for an evening that calls for something more than schmaltz or easy laughs and requires some emotional investment.

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The Paperboy
BTaylor199015 February 2013
The Paperboy (Lee Daniels, 2012) 3/5 Lee Daniels follow up to his heart wrenching Precious will make you feel dirty. In fact, there are times where you just feel the need to scrub yourself incessantly so you can cope with what is occurring on screen! Based on Peter Dexter's novel of the same name, the narrative follows two investigative journalists - Yardley Acheman and Ward Jansen - who aim to write a story to release convicted murderer Hillary Van Wetter. With the help of nymphomaniac Charlotte Bless, who corresponds with Wetter in prison and Ward's younger brother Jack they soon uncover not everything is what it seems in the sticky heat of the South.

The best way to get your head around is by remembering the exploitation films of the 1970's, where sex, drugs and violence were a staple. If you do this, then you can appreciate what Daniels and his producers were trying to achieve. Indeed, this is one of the films strengths as it pulls no punches at being explicit wherever possible, which garnered extremely mixed reviews when it was screened at Cannes last year.

The acting pedigree of the film is high with Matthew McConaughey and Zac Effron playing the two brothers, with Nicole Kidman excelling in her role as the troubled Miss Bless. However what damages the film is the slow pace and the lack of a proper twist. Generally speaking death-row thrillers have a big reveal at the end or a taut emotional climax. For example A Time to Kill, The Life of David Gale and Dead Man Waking all succeeded because they took the audience right through the investigation. The Paperboy does this to an certain extent; however it glosses over a majority of this in favour of highlighting the sweaty atmosphere of the inhabitants. At times, this becomes so overwhelming that it is difficult to think of anything else, let alone follow the characters as they reveal their dark sides and personal demons. Another issue is casting Macy Gray as the narrator. She might be one of the most annoying maids in film history and, unfortunately, you are stuck with her voice-over for the entire proceedings.

The cinematography is excellent as Roberto Schaefer's camera gets so close to the characters that you can almost smell their body odour in the immense heat. Yes, I told you this film would make you feel dirty. A great example of this is where Charlotte meets Wetter for the first time. They are sat apart in the prison meeting room; Charlotte spread her legs and begins to masturbate. This scene wouldn't have been so bad if they were alone, but Yardley, Ward and Jack are also in the room. Take that as you will… Even though The Paperboy is an uneven thriller, what it excels in is placing the audience in uncomfortable positions. A Haneke film this is not, but by doing this the whole issue of morality and senses in the cinema is raised. As such, Daniels new feature is a sweaty, sexy and visceral experience, which needed to take some more pointers from other more complete films. All in all, you may have to scrub yourself clean, but you won't forget the experience for quite some time.
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Great Performances but Somewhat Weak Story
Michael_Elliott8 November 2012
The Paperboy (2012)

*** (out of 4)

Lee Daniels' adaptation of the Peter Dexter novel taking a look at some swamp trash and a mystery surrounding them. Reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) returns to his hometown to try and solve the mystery behind a sheriff who was killed. Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) is on death row for the crime but the reporter believes he is innocent and drags his younger brother (Zac Efron) and a trashy woman (Nicole Kidman) into things. THE PAPERBOY is a pretty unpleasant look at a bunch of characters you can't help but hate and it's funny to see McConaughey really changing his "image" here as well as in the year's earlier KILLER JOE. I think the best thing about the picture are the performances as well as the authentic feel that director Daniels brings to the picture. The biggest problem is the screenplay and a story that I just felt wasn't all that captivating. The entire mystery surrounding what really happened to the sheriff seems to take a backseat and it really just seems to come and go at times. I'm really not sure why it was thrown in the background as much and especially with the twists that come towards the end. With the twists you'd think that the filmmakers were wanting the story itself to be important but it just never really takes off. It also seems that the director wants to shock the viewer with some rather graphic violence and sexual situations, which have the stars all doing some pretty wild things. It really does seem as if the film is just building up to each of these scenes and it's fair to say that they're quite memorable. The performances from the entire cast are terrific with both McConaughey and Kidman doing wonders with their swamp trash characters. I thought both of them were incredibly believable and hats off to them for going as far out as they did. I was also impressed with Efron and thought he handled the character's development quite well. Cusack was terrific playing the creepy bad guy and we also got strong support from David Oyelowo, Scott Glenn and Macy Gray. The cinematography is also good as is the music score and the atmosphere. THE PAPERBOY, as is, is a good showcase for its stars but you can't help but feel it's a missed opportunity as a stronger story would have made it even better.
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Shades of "Deliverance"
nyshrink21 October 2012
This film reminded me quite a bit of "Deliverance." It's about how well-meaning people can end up way over their heads by getting involved with people and subcultures with which they're not familiar. It's less riveting than "Deliverance" but has more sympathy toward its characters.

The plot revolves around a small group of people who join forces for a cause: A woman who wants to free a prisoner she's become enamored of (by mail) and a couple of newspaper reporters who want to dig up the truth about the crime. One of the reporters is seeking justice, the other has a slightly different agenda. The idealistic reporter has a younger brother (Zac Efron) who is an innocent. Innocence, idealism and romanticism come up against opportunism and sociopathy and some of what happens is not too much of a surprise. The end of the movie had a great deal of dramatic potential and could have been more suspenseful in the hands of a more polished director. The movie overall is somewhat lurid, a Southern Gothic, but not as lurid as some critics have claimed. Overall it is a movie with some poignancy.
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The moral swamp of the seedy South
rooee22 March 2013
Lee Daniels' follow-up to the powerful Precious is an atmospheric work of Southern Gothic, based on a novel by Pete Dexter. Some might be precious (!) about their favourite books, but great films have been made which bear little resemblance to their source material, as fans of Dr Strangelove will know. I wouldn't call The Paperboy great, but with weightless yawners like Hansel & Gretel and Oz currently clogging the cinema, its rawness and energy is like licking an electric fence. In a good way. Grainy, saturated and wilfully unfocused, The Paperboy is a reminder of the power of 2D.

Matthew McConaughey continues his resurgence, tapping into a hitherto hidden vulnerability. He plays Ward Jansen, a journalist who arrives in the back-of-beyond with his partner, Yardley (David Oyelowo). They're in town to write a story about the unlawful conviction of Hilary Van Wetter (John Cusack). To entice him they employ Charlotte (Nicole Kidman, fearless), who's in love with Hilary, or the idea of Hilary. Finally, and centrally, there is scared, smouldering Jack Jansen, played by a very capable Zac Efron.

Jack wants to steal Charlotte away from all this: the alligator-gutters and the insufferable heat. Nicole thinks he knows nothing because he's young, but one of the films myriad themes is the value of youthful idealism: Jack is the only one of the main characters yet to plunge down a rabbit-hole of hopelessness and self-service. There is genuine affection on show, though, of the brotherly kind between Ward and Jack, and the motherly kind between Jack and Anita (a subtle and funny Macy Gray; further proof of Daniels' aptitude for bringing the best and least showy from musicians-turned-actors).

The film is ramshackle and imperfect - but this kind of works. It skitters along with little attention paid to the audience, with precise relationships between characters rarely spelled out, and chunks of action entirely elided. It's not quite as funny or bleak as the similarly southern-fried Killer Joe, but I do believe that The Paperboy has a more humanist agenda than William Friedkin's film, basically emerging on the side of people, broken as they often become.

Like Precious, this is a film containing difficult individual scenes, and a troubling ambivalence about whether we're investing in a set of real characters or peering at them through museum glass. But there's no doubt, when the camera starts rolling, that Daniels sets out to challenge his audience. In that respect, he has succeeded.
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The movie is sleazy and trashy pulp like the films of yesteryear, a mixed bag but it has it's qualities.
Hellmant25 January 2013
'THE PAPERBOY': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

An all-star cast highlights this bizarre dramatic thriller based on the book (of the same name) by Pete Dexter. The cast features Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, Scott Glenn and Macy Gray all playing against type in unusual roles (for each actor). It was written (along with Dexter) and directed by Lee Daniels (who is most well known for directing the critical darling and Oscar nominated 'PRECIOUS', which was also based on a popular book). The movie itself has gotten mostly bad reviews but Kidman has gotten plenty of high critical praise and award recognition for her performance in it (including a supporting actress Golden Globe nomination). The rest of the cast has been well received as well and Daniels is still seen as a skilled director but the trashy content of the film as well as it's overall muddled nature have been negatively criticized by many. I agree with the criticisms but still feel like I have to give it a lot of respect and credit for what it does manage to accomplish.

The film revolves around a man named Hillary Van Wetter (Cusack) who's on death row for the murder of a local sheriff in a small Florida town. He's been communicating with a woman, Charlotte Bless (Kidman), he's never met via letters. Charlotte believes she's in love with Hillary and calls on the help of two reporters from Miami, Ward Jansen (McConaughey) and Yardley Acheman (Oyelowo), to help her prove he's innocent. Believing new evidence is available the two reporters travel to the Florida town, which is a return home for Ward (to the town he grew up in). Ward visits his dad (Glenn) and his new girlfriend (Nealla Gordon), who distribute his paper there. He also reunites with his kid brother Jack (Efron), who helps with their investigation. Jack is young and inexperienced with women and immediately falls for the sexy Charlotte. The Jansen's maid Anita (Gray) is Jack's only friend and she narrates the story.

The movie is sleazy and trashy pulp like the films of yesteryear. Daniels brings a lot of style to his storytelling but it's still a mess. The visuals are often haunting and disturbing and you never really know where the film is going or what to make of anyone or anything in it. It is bizarrely interesting though and entertaining in a somewhat bitter way. Like a lot of films it has a lot of great moments but a lot of bad ones in between as well. The cast is all fantastic; Cusack is very strange and creepy, McConaughey seems to be playing a character like many others he's done before but he does take a sharp character twist, Efron is good as the shy yet determined heart of the film and Kidman is fantastic as the sex obsessed vixen. The movie is a mixed bag but it definitely has it's qualities.

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A most bizarre swamp gumbo
phd_travel18 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is a bizarre story of a collection of very strange people in swamp land. A reporter (McConaughey) and his brother (Efron) help exonerate a man (Cusack) for killing a sheriff.

Nicole Kidman tests her acting ability and is quite convincing as a self destructive white trash who falls in love with the prisoner (John Cusack). She's got the dialog and body language down and looks very different from her usual ladylike sophisticated self.

Poor Matthew McConaughey, uglied up, raped beaten maimed and finally throat cut.

Zaf Efron looks quite convincingly lovesick as the totally whipped guy in love with Kidman's character. What an idiot his character is causing the death of his brother.

Still don't understand the point of freeing Cusack so he could murder.

A major directing and screenplay flaw is that some plot elements are revealed in heavily accented dialog which is hard to follow.

To cap this often senseless story is a lush 60s European style film score that is quite inappropriately beautiful.

Watch it if you are a fan of the stars but be prepared it's way out there.
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Worthless smelly garbage
pbento6813 July 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Despite strong performances from some of the actors(Cusack was pretty creepy), none of the characters in this film vaguely resembles any person who has actually lived on this planet. There are only one-dimensional stereotypes and excuses to insert "shocking twists" into a rather unimportant and undeveloped "story".

You have a reporter(?) out to expose the truth about a wrongful conviction. A woman obsessed with a imprisoned killer who says it's because he is innocent, but really she just doesn't think she deserves any better. A housekeeper who is narrating the story(who is difficult to understand) for some unknown person for some unknown purpose. A kid who sits around and feels jealous of everyone else's relationships and pines for the previously mentioned prison groupie, because, well as is the norm in this film who knows(or cares for that matter).But it is insinuated because she reminds him of his mommy. And she is of course unrealistically hot for a prison groupie. These characters are not explained or developed in any meaningful way aside from the fact that the boy has mommy abandonment issues, the reporter is ashamed by his homosexual desire for black men and, oh white people were really racist back in the day. And swamp people walk around naked with dead alligators hanging everywhere. And eat ice cream out of pots. And I guess they had not yet invented air-conditioning or indoor plumbing whenever this film was supposed to take place. Because most of the characters are covered in dirt and sweat throughout.

These characters serve only as a prop, as does the story and film itself for the writer/director's desire to "shock" the audience and show how brave they are for using the "n-word" and showing taboo things like masturbation, rape, gay bondage rape and alligator guts. Oh and don't forget pointless urination and the constant reminder that the world is and has always been a terrible place and any attempts to do the right thing will be met with disappointment and murder.

They do not develop any tension in the so-called story relating to the completely inconsequential investigation and consistently have every major plot development off screen. Focusing mostly on the fantasies (twisted and otherwise) of I presume the writer. A complete waste of time and film. All concerned should be ashamed to be associated with this cinematic cum stain.
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memyselfblogger7 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
While the acting is pretty good and the film explores some very interesting ideas, it sadly has no point whatsoever. The storyline severely lacks any kind of line and leaves you feeling like you've wasted your time. Weird flashback techniques occasionally overly subtle script make it difficult to understand or enjoy. I found the scenes where Hillary and Charlotte engage exceptionally disturbing and unnecessary. Issues with love, self-acceptance and racism are well dealt with and carried by outstanding acting, however the movie falls apart because the nonsensical storyline doesn't pull anything together and fails miserably to garner any understanding or interest. Very disappointed.
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Doesn't know what it wants to be when it grows up.
jasace5012 January 2013
I understand why some people think this movie is OK. It has some good actors, and it explores some dark issues. Unfortunately it is a roller-coaster ride going from mundane to awkward with little point to the journey. There is no cleverness, no real plot, and nothing of note to keep you watching except for the hope of a good ending. Too much effort went into trying to shock the viewer than went into actually making an involving story. The characters are obviously intended to polarise viewers, but they have tried too hard and the characters have been made uniformly unlikeable. The ending shows promise, but then true to the movie's form, it crashes back to mediocrity. The flashback concept is also so pointless. It has no relevance and no real callback to the present. The consequences of the story lead nowhere, and your are left feeling that sitting through this movie was equally pointless. The dialog also leads to confusion, it doesn't help to engage you at any deeper level and I couldn't really be bothered to dissect it too much. This paperboy does not deliver.
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In southern Florida where a racial murder case turns into a coming-of-age character study
napierslogs28 January 2013
"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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Daniels Messes Up Any Chance it Had
RyanCShowers9 September 2013
After the emotional kick in the gut with Precious, one may go into The Paperboy anticipating something of a roller coaster ride from Lee Daniels and the talented cast, but The Paperboy isn't Precious by any means. The quality of the film itself is so crummy, it's a wonder this high profile cast was attracted to it. Through all the cheesy and trashy aspects of the film, The Paperboy at least pushes the boundaries of what we expect and creates some shocking scenes in its plot.

The screenplay does have a fairly intriguing plot, it's bites off a lot of issues to talk about, but never fully realizes any of them. Sometimes the "issues" are so thin, they slide right by the viewer. The most fun for the viewer is to watch the interaction between Zac Efron and Nicole Kidman's characters. It's an usual romantic relationship. Everything unusual is what The Paperboy has going for its screenplay. The script does develop the characters fairly well, some of the characters more than others.

The acting is the saving grace of The Paperboy and is what makes it watchable. Though John Cusack doesn't convince us in his juicy role, the rest of the cast is good. Zac Efron is decent in his protagonist role, Matthew McConaughey does fairly good work, but the true star is Nicole Kidman. It's a role that requires a lot of courage. The actress who had to play Charlotte would had to embarrass herself completely; Kidman owns that and brings the character out through those humiliating moments.

Lee Daniels is the man who screwed the project up. It was never destined to be a groundbreaking film, but Daniels holds it back from being at least decent as a movie. It becomes campy, has stereotypical racism, and messy scenes drowning in disarray. The narrative isn't strong enough to overcome Daniels's misdirection, even with the cast trying their best.

Rating: 4/10

Grade: C
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What's the Point When Depravity Is the Point?
evanston_dad15 April 2013
The infamous reputation of "The Paperboy" preceded my viewing of it, and I have to say after seeing it myself that it's......not that bad.

It's not good, exactly, but I've seen much worse. You certainly can't criticize it for being boring, and I always say that if a movie is going to be bad, much better to be entertainingly bad than just merely dull. The film's biggest problem is a lack of focus. There are a lot of characters in it, all of them ugly, trashy people and played by the likes of Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey and John Cusack, but I never knew whose story this was or through whose point of view this story was being told. It's a sleazy, tawdry story set in the swamps of Florida about a crazy woman (Kidman) who's obsessed with a convict (Cusack) and two brothers (Efron and McConaughey), one who is himself obsessed with her and the other who is obsessed with clearing the convict's name. All of them are asked to do degrading things on camera, and the film has a hateful tone about humanity and the depraved things depraved people will do.

But did I mention that it's never boring?

Grade: B-
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Wasted 2 hours of my life
Thatoneguyimet23 January 2013
Great actors, horrible movie. The story was rambling, confused, and seemed to be dark just to be dark.

The narration was horrible; Macy Gray is incoherent throughout. I'm sure there was a reason to have a narrator, but the fact that she was completely unable to be understood kind of eliminates the benefit.

Characters were poorly developed and there was never any build up to explain their behavior.

The director seemed to be searching for ways to degrade every character over and over and over. This movie was disturbing without any redeeming quality at all.

Don't waste your time or your money.
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The backwoods of Louisiana and some pretty sordid characters don't add up
secondtake3 May 2013
The Paperboy (2012)

A rough and crude backwater view of Louisiana folk and the crossing of paths of a convicted criminal and several local people with mixed pasts. It's what a friend of mine would maybe call a swamp story--and by that he meant all the messy, mired personal histories of a group of people getting in the way and making for high drama. In this case it becomes literally the swamps of the Gulf Coast and some pretty harrowing scenes result.

The three leads are huge stars, and all are portrayed in a gritty, sometimes very unattractive way. Nicole Kidman plays a trashy rural woman well, coming on to those who can't resist and then getting in trouble (big trouble) with one of them. Matthew McConaughey is a troubled reporter and he ends up in worse shape than Nicole Kidman (partly because it takes longer to get him there). And John Cusack plays a convincing psycho criminal, released in time to make mayhem for the rest of the cast. (There is also an odd small role by David Oyelowo, who has a voice so much like Sidney Poitier it's surprising.)

So this swamps story with a stellar cast seems to have potential, and it even is structured in an inventive way with a disjointed arranging of the narrative pieces, some shaky camera, and so on. But director (and screenwriter, and producer) Lee Daniels manages to make a muck of it all. The plot doesn't seem terribly complicated but it's weirdly hard to completely follow. The motivations of the characters--from the writer to the woman to another younger man who has sexual needs that seem weirdly bottled up--are never clarified. People act in disturbing ways and you're curious as can be but you never quite know why things are happening, except maybe from Cusak's character since he's supposed to be nuts and he acts it. You keep groping for sense to it, or at least artful non-sense, and it doesn't gel. Some of the dialog is forced, as well, so despite all the realistic grit you are thrust away from realism at the same time.

I'm guessing the book is terrific, because there is something great going on here behind all the broken parts. Daniels is behind the disturbing but well made movie, "Precious," and so I expected something more together on this one. It's as if he's traded sensation for meaning, and for me it's a false and frustrating trade.
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All over the road in Florida
rcastl233526 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
If you're going to make a movie with a voice-over narrator, the first step must be finding a voice the audience can clearly understand . Macy Gray is an able enough actress in small doses but she's far too inexperienced and has much too odd and weak a voice for the role. But the failure of this film lies almost entirely with the bumbling of director Lee Daniels. Had this inept effort been his first directing job Precious would never have been made. The film is structurally muddled, with surrealistic fantasy sequences mixed with hard realism and big splashes of sexy Southern Gothic melodramatics. The sound recording is, in the main, low and nearly inaudible. The cinematography is the standard indie mix of shakycam amateurishness, lens flare and out of focus artsiness. The story meanders wildly and with no particular focus on any of its several narratives strands. The acting is more interesting than good, with McConaughey, Cusack and Kidman playing against type but too no real purpose. Lee Daniels crush on Zac Efron's torso means Efron is showcased lovingly but at an embarrassing, centerfold length. Several reviews I've seen called this movie a "hot mess." I'd emphasize the "mess" end of that critical construction.
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Really a waste of almost two hours
lynneyvonn4 October 2014
I found this to be virtually pornographic (and gratuitously so) and the gore factor was over the top. It's shocking that so many stars like Kiddman and McConauaghay and Daniels were involved in this project. Truly disgusting, and incredibly disturbing as well. I watched this after watching "The Butler" and was shocked that Daniels could have put his efforts in to this awful project. The film had no socially redeeming qualities in that it didn't reflect anything about a historical event (for which sex and violence can play a dramatic role). It was simply "Shock Schlock".

The graphic and gratuitous nature of all of the sexual scenes was incredibly disturbing, as was the bloody violence throughout the film. It should not have received a rating of R. I question whether it should have even received a rating of NC17.

I would encourage everyone NOT to watch this film.
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It's a Dark World Out There
aharmas24 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Lee Daniels is a great director, in firm control of conveying dark and powerful forces. He is not afraid to handle very controversial material, and he can go back and forth between simple but effective scenes and other moments where what you are seeing is on the screen is unbelievable, devastating, overwhelming.

Pretty much, like "Precious" but with very little of the fantasy moments that brought a little relief to the existence of that movie's heroine, "The Paperboy" offers no break to the audience. Each one of its characters is fully exposed, at times, literally, and we might have a hard time handling the movie, but it's still remarkable because it's an honest story of souls that inhabit a very ugly world, and in the words of one of them: Things might be even worse if we saw their darker sides.

Kidman, as usual fully fleshes out the character of the deluded and hungry lonely soul who falls for a convicted killer. She is outstanding, showing an intense physical side we have never seen before. It's a raw portrayal of a sad but somehow pragmatic character who makes bad choices. Equally amazing is McCounaghey who has made it tough for Academy members when they choose his best role this year. He is a man who walks the tightrope between love and self-hate. When he is around his younger brother, we can see his demonstrations of affection, and it's obvious he's hiding something, and we'll be in shock when we see what lies behind his tortured facade.

There are the other players doing great work. Macy Gray plays the resilient and obedient servant who is much wiser than most people believe. She is the narrator of the Greek tragedy that happens in the '60's Florida. It's a mystery with corrosive details, a tail that scars many who lived through it, and will probably shock more than a few in the audience. Zac Efron takes plenty of chances baring more than his soul here as the conflicted and impulsive young man who must learn to grow up pretty fast and lives in a world that is changing by the minute. Things might be a bit too much for him to handle.

The most incredible transformation is that of John Cusack, an intelligent but reserved performer who has managed to avoid the spotlight in spite of the powerful forces he seems to be capable of portraying. He is unleashed here as the accused killer, and he, like Charlize Theron is almost unrecognizable as the shameless and depraved product of an unforgiving area of our country. He is ruthless and scary. At first, we think it's all madness, but there is a driving force here, and it's evil. Cusack shows a dark side movies rarely achieve. It's truly a frightening acting tour-De-force.

So, the question is can we handle and believe what is shown here? It's up to the audience to decide because we usually read about this, but here is like in "Precious" a film that pushes the boundaries of what contemporary cinema passes as drama. It's not gratuitous; it's daring and powerful movie-making.
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A sweet sweet film
ceilingcorner26 April 2013
It is not the movie that I would recommend unreservedly. These are not 107 pleasant minutes. It's peeping. It's fears come to the surface. It's a masochistic pleasure. It's a hedonistic dream and a disturbing nightmare. It doesn't do you any favors. It's not interested in you. It does what it wants and continues smiling and wildly dancing towards the sunset. I trust Lee Daniels as no one else to shock me.Yes, the story is not particularly "strong", but the story is just the excuse. The opportunity to become a witness of the crime, or rather the crimes committed every minute of the movie. Each scene is criminal by disarming realism and unpretentious sincerity. And I would say that its main feature is its brutal honesty. And the strange thing is that I do not agree with brutal honesty. I'm a fan of glamour. Daniels combines both in a unique way. I was amazed by Nicole Kidman. Truth is whenever I've seen her on film i've watched her speechless. An amazing actress, with incredible potentiality, I consider her the greatest asset of the film. When she was absent from a scene, I was anxious when she'll be back. Ah, Matthew McConaughey. No way! Yet, here I wanna go in, hug him and tell him everything is gonna be alright. Chaste and lovable, he is for me the ultimate victim of the film. Zac Efron? Wtf? The surprise. The "child's" case. I was watching him closely,I expected him to mess things up sometime soon, he never did .. He was consistent to the end. My favorite John Cusack. I love him. I thank this film from the bottom of my heart for presenting me John as I never expected in my life to see him. Dirty, lousy, the part of self that no one ever could ever possibly bear to admit, an "absolute evil". The feeling this movie left me with was sweetness. Yes, sweetness. The kind of sweetness you feel when you leave the funeral of a loved one. Or when you're desperate and you know that it does not go below than that. A sweet despair. A sweet sweet film.
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Drowns In Its Own Juices
Cinnyaste4 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
A twisted tale of first love told in flashback, "The Paperboy" is also a profane melodrama set in Florida, August, 1969. A subtext of journalistic integrity and responsibility adds gasoline to this already incendiary tale. (Nixon fell to Woodward and Bernstein's persistence in 1974.)

Nicole Kidman is Charlotte Bless. She cherry-picks a nasty death row inmate from dozens of others and enjoys a torrid mail affair. Convinced of the killer's innocence, she rallies a reporter to investigate. The reporter, Matthew McConaughey, returns to his podunk hometown from Miami with Black partner, David Oyelowo, and are joined by McConaughey's young brother, Zac Efron, in a Hardy-Boys-On-Acid-With-A-Generous-Side-Of Kink search for the truth.

Nicole Kidman, at 45, is hotter than a sweaty summer afternoon in Florida. This role is extremely courageous in its explicit sexuality. However, with on screen mutual masturbation and violent sex, the performance, like the film, is way over-the-top. Some may cringe at frankness that, honestly, takes the viewer out of the film. Predictably, poor Zac falls hard for the seductive, micro-miniskirted, slutty Kidman.

After Efron is stung by jellyfish, Kidman screams at other women on the beach, "If anyone is going to pee on him it'll be me." The Director frames the shot mere inches from the source of the urine and keeps shooting. And shooting. (This same idea was used with greater restraint (but only barely) in the Farrelly's remake of "The Heartbreak Kid.")

"The Paperboy" also casts squeaky clean, All-American McConaughey in a vivid new light. He mentioned a wish to break free from the typecasting. And he succeeds. In spades. Here he's secretly gay with a penchant for extreme, interracial masochism. Therein lies another facet of this unsuccessful film: a world of secrets, lies and delusion. Oyelowo pretends to be from England (complete with British accent), but is really just a homeboy. Zac believes his love for Charlotte is true and real, while Kidman feels the killer's (a maniacal John Cusack) "good vibes" until he beats her to death. With multiple references to Vietnam and US Presidents through the ages, "The Paperboy" throws a smidge of political allegory at the viewer's feet. Too bad it's drowned out in the racket.

As expected, there's plenty of racism the South valiantly struggles to hold onto even as it becomes obvious the times they are-a-changin' (as illustrated in a clip of Angela Davis on TV).

Macy Gray, Anita, the family maid, narrates the film. At the open she tells this tale to a Documentary crew.

If a highly sexually charged, first love, franker-than-frank, murder mystery is your cup of venom, drink deeply. This film, by "Precious" Director Lee Daniels, failed miserably. Only a few of the reasons why are extant herein. While the actors universally turn in honest and daring performances, they were sold a rancid bill of goods. "The Paperboy" is from a noisy neighborhood adjacent to unwatchable.
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not as bad as people have said but not good exactly--more muddled then anything
mbs22 October 2012
The Paperboy was an interesting film to watch in that I wasn't always sure where the film was headed, and I wasn't always so sure if the film even cared about where it was headed as well. The film is really more of a character story then it is a southern noir narrative-a coming of age story somehow mixed up with a southern Gothic noir-but the plot is pretty irristiable if you're a fan of films like "Night of The Hunter" or much more on the mark comparison wise "The Gingerbread Man" (a much better film i think this might make an interesting companion piece to sometime down the line) The plot (for those of you who don't already know) essentially is Matthew McConaughey is a reporter who returns home to write a story about a convicted sheriff killer John Cusack--there seems to be a story involving the question of his actual guilt. Meanwhile McConaughey's hires his college drop out brother Zac Efron to do some driving around while he does his investigations. Cusack's convict has been having a steamy pen-pal relationship with a rather hot to trot Nicole Kidman. When Zach Efron first sets his eyes on her--he falls head over heels in love with her--and things develop somewhat senselessly from there.

I just want to state that everyone here is severely miscast with the exception of Macy Gray as the maid to the family the two brothers are from-if you have a film with these actors in it and the most effective performance comes from someone who's not known for being an actor--that's a major sign that something's not working right here. McConaughy and Kidman try their best to sell their characters' but both get tripped up by the script here. Its nice that Cusack and Kidman were given the chance to play someone so 180 degrees from their normal screen persona yet neither really seems to impress in their role (Kidman makes the most of her character's trashiness--and there are some turns in the later half that Kidman does her best to sell but the film almost completely lets her down in terms of character development....Cusack however is terrible here--he's supposed to be someone so hard headed and mean but when you first see him on screen you don't see the man the characters are see Cusack--i suppose director Lee Daniels was hoping to use Cusack's past screen performances here in order to sucker punch the audience with how much of a brute his character is--but this really only works against the film in that I kept asking myself "Is he supposed to be like some of Cusack's prior characters or is this just something that wasn't intended?") It actually would have made more sense if Cusack and McConaughey had switched roles and Cusack was the embittered reporter and McConaughey had been the southern brute because then at least the casting would have made some sort of sense. Efron is all right enough but i don't feel he especially offers any insight into what the character might be thinking or feeling--it all seems to be what's on the page in the script, and he's just playing that....but at least he doesn't take you out of the movie--in fact one of the best things I can honestly say about this movie is that nothing really takes you out of the movie--the narrative does a good job of pushing through whatever plot obstacles the writing and performances seem to throw in its way and its that kind of pacing that helps keep the movie nicely watchable even when what your watching doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense.

The movie is again fairly well paced--and you won't be bored watching what happens--you may have some questions and be rather disappointed where it all ends up--having not read the book i can't say whether or not the ending was effective there, but the ending of this film felt so tacked on and so arbitrary, it was almost as if the screenwriter was just throwing up his hands and saying i guess i have to end this somehow. I suspect the book was a lot better in terms of character motivation and plot specifics but there were definitely some questionable character behavior--things that seem completely out of the blue based on what we had already seen from these characters on screen already but whatever i guess. The movie is also plot and character and acting aside nicely visualized--Lee Daniels really does a fine job putting a visual stamp on Efron's obsessive lust for Kidman's character and the atmosphere of the southern swamps where Cusack's character lived as an alligator skinner (resulting in a really gross scene where you see an alligator being skinned and its innards fall completely out in complete close-up--its actually kind of awesome) Daniels' seems to be trying to go for a real 70's like atmosphere here style wise--and I would say he pulls it off quite nicely--some of the jittery jump cuts of Kidman or the gauzily lit ways Efron day dreams of Kidman are presented--and the soundtrack is nicely handled too.

So when all is said and done you have a halfway watchable movie here, but one that is almost so completely bogged down by plot questions, sketchy characterizations, and some pretty bad casting decisions, that it almost feels like it was trying so hard to impress and be a wonderfully sleazy classic for the ages that they let some of the more important and basic things a movie needs to nail down slide by without checking to see if these movie basics actually work. Of course none of this will really matter when you stumble across it on cable TV at 3 in the morning where it will keep your attention and hook you in that you'll want to keep watching even though you know you should probably turn it off way that sometimes movies at that time do.
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The Most Underrated Film of 2012
brainofj7219 December 2012
With The Paperboy, we have the arrival of a major new cinematic talent - Lee Daniels. Though his first two films (the bizarre Shadowboxer and the extremely well-acted Precious) had their merits, only with The Paperboy do we finally see the maturation of his craft, the arrival of a distinct new voice. It is a hypnotically bold, daringly original, and utterly fearless film that seemingly effortlessly dances between drama and comedy, tenderness and tension, completely unafraid to go to shocking, dangerous places. It feels totally unpredictable, and nothing about it feels safe, which is something far too many movies are these days. The Paperboy hearkens back to the audacious spirit of American cinema in the 1970s, when filmmakers weren't afraid to make outrageous works like Deliverance and Prime Cut. In this film's world, nothing is sacred, and because Daniels is so assured with this approach, so completely in control of every moment, watching it is an enthralling, absorbing, exhilarating experience.

Rarely am I so entertained and captivated by a film, and even more rarely am I so blown away by a film's originality and daring. With The Paperboy, Lee Daniels created a world I didn't want to leave and a film I didn't want to end. I can't wait to see where he goes from here.
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