5 O’clock(ish) Review: The Paperboy

The Paperboy feels a long time coming. It was released nearly a year ago in the US and received a cool reception at Cannes in 2012. But now here it is, sweat soaked and urine stained.

Nicole Kidman plays Charlotte Bless, a sexually charged ageing blonde with a ‘thing’ for bad men. Her would be lover Hilary (Cusack) is in jail for a murder he may or may not have committed and Charlotte persuades Ward Jansen (McConaughey) to return home with his writing partner Yardley (Oyelowo) and tell the real story. Ward’s younger brother Jack (Efron) acts as driver for the investigation and becomes besotted with Charlotte. Set in Florida during a heat wave and in the age of polyester, it is humid in every sense.


As director, Lee Daniels has pulled no punches in amped up action that revels in colour. High angled, bright lit camera work uses the glare of the everglades to great effect in moments of lustful dreaming or loss but elsewhere it feels overdone. The plot and pace jar with each other and as one holds back the other surges forward sloppily. The smaller scenes that require intimacy, notably between Jack and Anita (played by Macy Gray) are better pitched and the story as whole still comes together. Adding to this is the fine wardrobe choices create a cohesive aesthetic and crystalise the standing of each character.

A lot has been said of the “jellyfish scene” (that’s where the urine comes in) but really it is less shocking than the tension surrounding the less than complete de-segregation of the swampy town around it. More eye-popping is the very public conjugal visit between Charlotte and Hilary. Some spectacular violence that doesn’t shy away from guts in the most literal sense weaves in and out, underpinning the visceral nature of the story on a swamp.

Excellent performances all round, and especially Kidman as a woman oozing sex whilst remaining vulnerable. Zac Efron has thoroughly shrugged any Disney overhang lithely lounging as Jack and the McConaughey resurgence continues in fine style.

Some laughs, more shocks, a great story with unexpected turns slightly overblown plus buckets and buckets of fluids.

The Paperboy is now playing in the Grosvenor Cinema. For ticket information visit grosvenorcinema.co.uk


Naomi Walmsley

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