By Jess Fenton
24th February 2013

If you’re familiar with Lee Daniels' previous works as the director of ‘Precious’ or producer of ‘Monster’s Ball’, there’s one element to these films that's unmistakably Daniels: fearlessness. The man in completely unafraid of the offensive, raw and the tasteless. His latest feature seems to be topping the list on all accounts - not for the faint of heart, ‘The Paperboy’. Throughout the film’s 107 minutes, I would've lost count of the number of times I clutched my pearls if I wore any (or dropped my monocle if I owned one). From the graphic violence to the confronting sex scenes, the language and the general plot and deplorable characters, it’s hard to find a likeable or redeemable feature - and yet...


Set in 1969, when a disliked Florida county sheriff is murdered, the local swamp-living creep Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) is fingered, convicted and sitting on death row. Two Miami journalists Ward (Matthew McConaughey) and Yardley (David Oyelowo) show up, convinced that the case was sloppy and a violation of rights, procedure and justice, despite the unsavoury character of the accused. Following closely behind the two men is Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), a woman with a penchant for inmates, who has fallen for Van Wetter and is now determined to get him free. Joined by Ward’s younger brother Jack (Zac Efron), the group's driver, the four go about trying to determine the truth and free an innocent man. However, each member of the team has too many secrets and issues which continue to get in the way or threaten to be exposed as they delve deeper into the investigation.

Borderline trashy and purposely so, ‘The Paperboy’ leaves nothing to the imagination.

Borderline trashy and purposely so, ‘The Paperboy’ leaves nothing to the imagination, except maybe a cohesive story. More of a character study loosely tied together through the murder investigation, each member of the exceptional cast gives their roles their all, leaving nothing on the page, displaying indescribable courage in their performances and leaving audience members to wonder if they can ever look at them in the same way again. The film simply has too many ideas, yet not enough story. The sum of its parts isn’t nearly as strong as it should be given the elements. Every character is written and presented beautifully, secrets and murky colours and all, with Daniels also serving as co-writer along with the original novel’s author, Peter Dexter.

Proceed with caution: this film asks you to have your wits about you, and to leave your taste and judgement at the door. Much like the swamp waters of Florida, while there are many dangers that lie on top, it’s what lies beneath that should really get your blood pumping.

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