Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Paperboy (2012) **½

R, 107 min.
Director: Lee Daniels
Writers: Lee Daniels, Peter Dexter (also novel)
Starring: Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, Macy Gray, David Oyelowo, John Cusack, Scott Glenn, Nealla Gordon, Ned Bellamy

Lee Daniel’s new movie “The Paperboy” is one of those movies that I’m glad I took the time to see but can’t recommend. It’s a crime story that takes place in Florida in 1969. It involves a couple of journalists who look into the conviction of a man for the murder of a small town sheriff. The sheriff had a reputation for being abusive to suspects and had killed the convict’s cousin while in custody. With the help of a woman who has fallen in love with the convict and may have evidence to prove his innocence, the journalists set out to free the man.

Daniel’s had previously found renown for his film “Precious: Based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”. Here he’s just as ambitious, but much of that ambition seems a little misplaced. The film was billed as a sexy piece of pulp fiction due to the sexual nature of the woman who helps the journalists. The younger brother of one of the journalists is the film’s true protagonist. Played by Zac Efron, Daniel’s spends too much energy on his infatuation with the woman. While sexy exploitation is a key element of pulp, their sexual tension draws the focus away from the murder case too often and fragments the accounts of the investigation. Plus, Efron spends far too much time half to mostly naked.

The investigation is truly interesting, but little effort has been put into making it suspenseful. The true nature of the convict is too obvious from the moment he steps on screen. Daniels also makes stylistic choices with the cinematography and editing that are a distraction from the plotting of the film. In “Precious” there were also stylistic flares, but they were confined to the main character’s fantasy sequences. The rest of the movie was directed in a straightforward manner. “The Paperboy” could’ve used more straightforward direction and more emphasis placed in the journalists and their determination to free this man from a derailment of justice.

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