8:00 PM, 30th April, 2013
Lee Daniels moves from the dingy Harlem of 2009’s Precious to a swampy rural Florida setting in The Paperboy, a slippery noir-thriller adapted from the 1995 Pete Dexter novel.
In a humid Florida town in the late sixties, Reporter Ward Jansen (McConaughey) is on a mission to expose the injustice carried out against convicted murderer Hillary Van Wetter (Cusack), whom he believes to be wrongly accused of the murder of a local police chief. By his side is his partner Yardley (David Oyelowo) and, officiating as his driver, his younger brother Jack, played by a jockish Zac Efron.
Ward’s way in comes in the form of the dangerously sexy Charlotte Bless (Kidman), who’s struck up a passionate pen-pal relationship with the felon. The boys accompany her to some of her meetings with Hillary so that they can ask questions. Charlotte drips with sex appeal in the humidity, attracting Jack’s lustful eye, and the seemingly simple narrative becomes a multi-dimensional labyrinth of duplicity and uncertainty. We never quite know what Charlotte’s up to, and Kidman, commanding an aura of saucy deceptiveness, aims to keep it that way.
The Paperboy is an atmospheric thriller with a contrasting range of strong performances, most notably from Kidman. Some may become alienated by its plot, or lack thereof, but it’s as entertaining as it is mysterious, and it will envelop you in its world with ease.