In Review: The Paperboy on Blu-ray

by Katherine McLaughlin on 30/07/2013


The booing at Cannes feels far enough in the distance now to take proper stock of Lee Daniels’ hot and sweaty crime drama. On second viewing its sincerity becomes apparent as the trashy vibe, servitude storyline and violence points to the seething racial tension of Florida in the 1960s. Through word of mouth, its salacious scenes and committed performances are slowly drifting The Paperboy towards cult movie status.

Anita Chester (Macy Gray) narrates the story of Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo) and Ward Jensen (Matthew McConaughey) as the pair investigates the murder of a local sheriff. For Ward, this is a homecoming and reunion with younger brother Jack (Zac Efron).

We are introduced to each character – Jack lazing around in his pants and flirting with housekeeper Anita, the sexually ripe and straight-talking Charlotte who Jack falls in lust with, the smartly dressed and well-spoken Yardley and the damaged Ward – with an air of excitement all lensed through Jack’s eyes. As things get stickier you can feel the tension swell through his various responses to the unfolding mess. This sweet-natured boy comes of age in many ways throughout the film and, thanks to Efron’s excellent performance, a touching and tragic narrative is played out.

“Where you going Paperboy?” will forever be an expression connected to John Cusack’s vile Hilary Van Wetter. As will be the masturbation scene between Van Wetter and Nicole Kidman’s Charlotte Bless as she opens her legs and plumped up lips in a moment to rival Basic Instinct. Bless is surrounded by Ward, Jack and Yardley and as the camera swoops between each of them their awkward reactions roll over into the audience. Bless is not designed to look perfect, with her troweled on make-up melting in the heat, but in Jack’s eyes she is flawless.

The Paperboy’s dramatic reveals may make you chuckle and the sudden camera jolts may leave you baffled, but there’s a sweetness bubbling just underneath. The hazy grain of the Super 16 anamorphic lens intoxicates every scene making it feel entirely comfortable in its own unique disposition.

Extreme and grubby, Lee Daniels has designed a movie to shock, make you sweat, feel a little sick and will stick long in your memory.


The director and actors’ interview featurettes don’t really add up to much.

Katherine has awarded The Paperboy four Torches of Truth

four torches

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