This is the latest film from director/screenwriter/producer Lee Daniels, whose last film was the hard hitting, Oscar nominated ‘Precious’, back in 2009. Here we see a marvellous performance by everyone in the talented ensemble cast, including Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, David Oyelowo, John Cusack, Macy Grey and Scott Glen in support. But no Oscar nods this time round? The reason is not that they aren’t merited, especially in the case of Kidman, but that the material is a little dark and overtly sexual for most people’s taste. For example, the story mostly revolves around the imprisonment of one Hillary Van Wetter, played by Cusack, and the investigation of his innocence or guilt by Miami Times journalists, spearheaded by the drive of Kidman’s character who intends to marry Van Wetter should he be found innocent and released – cue a most amusing scene in the prison featuring Cusack jerking off whilst Kidman flaunts her stuff for him, and the others not entirely sure what to do with this particularly sizeable elephant in the room (far from the first time Kidman has wonderfully portrayed a highly sexualised character, nor her first onscreen masturbatory antics – see the deserving but mostly overlooked ‘Margot at the Wedding’).
Daniels co-wrote the screenplay with author Peter Dexter, adapted from his novel of the same name, and the whole film has had a film grain texture applied to it, which is initially a huge distraction and irritant, but as the film goes on it gets easier on the eyes. This is to evoke the 60’s era it’s set in, but if we look at the success of ‘The Help’ set in a similar age and venue, the American south, which was edited with no gimmicky effects, we see its use was hardly necessary to recreate the feel they were looking for. Expect some brutal violence on the way, and they may have perhaps egged the pudding a little, but overall the great work of the cast make this vibrantly engaging and a possible career best for some of them. It’s especially good news for Efron, who is a good actor, but ever since ‘17 Again’ (09) he’s gone for safe and humdrum fare at best. ‘The Paperboy’ also marks another very noteworthy role for Matthew McConaughey, in a year that seen him with plaudits for both ‘Magic Mike’ and ‘Killer Joe’ (which premiered in Edinburgh incidentally, or Edinborow as I believe most of the cast liked to pronounce it), making 2012 almost certainly a career high for him.