Opening in theaters this Friday from director Lee Daniels and Millennium Entertainment films comes the telling of THE PAPERBOY.
This film tells the story of Jack Jansen (Zac Efron), a young man suspended from school returning to his hometown of South Florida in the 1960’s. His father W.W. Jansen (Scott Glenn) is the town’s newspaper editor and respected businessman. The other member of their household is Anita (Macy Gray), an African American woman who takes care of the family and Jack adores.
Coming into town is wayward older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey), also a newspaper reporter who has come to town at the request of Charlotte Bess (Nicole Kidman). The town sheriff has been murdered and in jail sits Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusak), an alligator killing swamp man accused of the crime. Prison groupie Charlotte believes him to be innocent and asks Ward for help.
Ward arrives with friend Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo); an African America man who thinks this part of the world is crazy. These two set up shop in the Jansen garage and begin taking the case apart piece by piece. Jack eventually sees Charlotte and finds himself falling in love with her.
A visit to van Wetter in prison helps the two writers know what they are in for because this inmate isn’t going to make it easy. As there research begins the road takes them into strange places, into danger and never knowing what is the truth and what is a lie.
FINAL WORD: Efron takes quite a grown up role in this film. Not only is he smitten with the character of Charlotte but also he has a very close and somewhat wanting relationship with Gray’s character Anita. There are moments between the two of them that are just stunning to watch. Efron takes the role of Jack, a young man looking for something in the world to hold on to and constantly puts events in front and the reaction is haunting.
McConaughey as Ward has taken a role that has so many twists and turns its hard to believe the outcome. For a moment I thought ‘oh I’ve seen him do this before with other lawyer roles’ and I was quickly proven wrong. This is a dark and harsh role to play and not only is it hard to watch, it necessary to watch.
Kidman as Bess gets a chance to play a sexy siren that has a fetish for prison men. She believes in something bigger in life but apparently it isn’t herself! Kidman has the opportunity to flirt with anything and everything that’s on screen. It’s when the reality of life sets in Kidman’s character begins to melt and the truth becomes clear.
Oyelowo as Acherman is another character that seems so out of place in the film yet I can’t imagine the character not being there. What a twist that is for the audience to experience.
Glenn as WW Jansen clearly is more interested in his work than family. Everything is about the story or his need for a companion putting that before his sons who clearly need their father.
There are two characters here that win me over hands down. The first is Macy Gray as Anita. From the moment her voice is heard in the film to the very last frame she is in, it is an experience I would not have expected. Gray seems so at easy playing this role yet there is such deep emotion coming from her. I wish her story had been played out a little more.
And then, there is John Cusak. Yes, the same Cusak who has every woman my age remember the loveliness of a boy name Lloyd Dobler in SAY ANYTHING, to an amazing performance in THE GRIFTERS, to horror in 1408, to world-ending 2012 and more recently as Edgar Allan Poe in THE RAVEN. This role of Hillary Van Wetter makes the rest look like child’s play. This is a side I never want to see again yet secretly hope I do. Cusak managed to make me uncomfortable, want to be somewhere else and freaked out all mashed up while not taking my eyes off the screen. Well played sir, well played!
Other cast include: Ned Bellamy as Tyree Van Wetter, Nealla Gordon as Ellen Guthrie, Danny Hanemann as Sheriff Thurmond Call, John P. Pertitta as Sam Ellison, and Jay Oliver as Mr. Guthrie.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give THE PAPERBOY four tubs of popcorn out of five. This film will definitely not be everyone’s cup of soda but boy was I knocked for a loop. It is insatiably erotic; it is overtly vicious, equally demented and vulgar and has moments of pure emotional honesty in between stunning scenery and talented actors.
The film is based on Pete Dexter who also wrote MULHOLLAND FALLS and PUSH, which are also quite provocative pieces of work.
In the end – be careful what you wish for.