Published Sep 18, 2012One of the most polarizing films at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, The Paperboy is director Lee Daniel's grim and dirty follow-up to Precious. The film may seem like a star-studded affair with its A-list cast, but there's certainly no glamour involved in this story, which conveys controversial themes of racism, homosexuality and sexuality in a cruel, vicious manner.
The story is narrated by former maid Anita (a surprisingly standout performance by Macy Gray) during an interview with a reporter, as she recalls the events that led up to the crime and tragedy bestowed upon the Jansen family years ago.
The film then jumps back to Florida in 1969 and viewers are introduced to Jack (Zac Efron), a young man who works as a paperboy for his father's newspaper company. Soon after, his older reporter brother, Ward (Matthew McConaughey), and his African-American writing partner, Yardley (David Oyelowo), come back into town to investigate the story of death row inmate Hillary Van Wetter (a strikingly dark performance by John Cusack) after his white-trash, prison, groupie girlfriend, Charlotte (Nicole Kidman), claims she has evidence proving Hillary's innocence.
However, Hillary isn't a saint. In fact, he is a racist, sexist and unhinged man who belongs behind bars, but Ward and Yardley need a big story for their paper and Jack wants to impress Charlotte, so the four set off to help prove Hillary's innocence, despite the fact they will all soon regret it. What follows are moments of Zac Efron running around in his tightie whiteys, a hilarious golden shower sequence and the most uncomfortable and vile sex/rape scene between two A-list celebrities.
The Paperboy isn't for the easily offended and is definitely not made for anyone who can't take a recognizable ensemble cast playing poignantly flawed characters. And although that may seem like a bad thing, it is one of the film's greatest strengths, as it's refreshing to see a director not care to deliver what Hollywood has expected from him.
It is a bold, dark and trashy film that makes no concessions to its audience and the chilling finale will make the audience collectively gasp in unison. (Millennium Films)