The Paperboy


Ignored the critics, who gave The Paperboy only a 38% positive rating on Rottentomatoes.com, and saw it last night. It was entertaining, which is all one should ever ask of a movie.

A critic's #1 job is to show how intelligent he is. His #2 job is to show how refined his sensibilities are. And his #3 job is to show how cleverly cutting he can be.

(As the writer of this review, I plead guilty to all of the above.)

In any case, letting you know whether you'd actually enjoy the movie doesn't even make most critics' lists.

The operative word for the movie is "steamy." It's a film noir set in late 60's Florida, with all the social commentary on that time and place you'd expect from a movie made by Hollywood in 2012.

Nicole Kidman vamps it up as a sultry siren with a fixation on men in prison. She seems to enjoy playing cheap, which she does well. The only problem was that at 5' 11" she towers over most of the men who are supposed to be lusting after her. (She had this same problem while playing the role of Tom Cruise's wife.)

Zac Efron does a solid job as a former college swimming champion who is the son of a local newspaper publisher. Efron is about eye level with Kidman's breasts, which might explain his character's fixation on her. But Efron did bring to mind a cardinal Hollywood rule, which is to hide your gayness if you want to be considered for romantic leading roles. Also, when Efron enters the water and takes a few strokes, it's painfully obvious he was never a swimmer, though I doubt most moviegoers would be as bothered by this quibble as I was.

Matthew McConaughey played Efron's older brother, a Miami reporter who come to town to investigate whether a local man convicted of murder is in fact guilty. I've also heard that McConaughey is gay, but coincidentally, so is his character here. That knowledge actually seemed to enhance his credibility in the role, not sure why. I've never mistaken Arnold Schwarzenegger for an actual tough guy, yet that's never bothered me while watching him play a role. But knowing about an actor's sexuality is somehow more distracting.

The Efron-sized David Oyelowo did a good job as the reporter who is McConaughey's reporting partner from Miami. (He may have been cast so that it seemed credible that Efron could beat him in a fight.) It's to the moviemaker's credit that they didn't make Oyelowo's character too noble, as moviemakers tended to do with the vast majority of black characters until quite recently.

John Cusack is excellent as the convict, though he may not be quite masculine enough. A guy who can come in his pants without even touching himself is a guy with a lot of male hormones, and the baby-faced Cusack, no matter how disheveled and profane, just doesn't look like that guy. (Now there's a role for Schwarzenegger -- except Arnold wouldn't have had the acting chops to pull it off.)

Anyway, some of what the critics said was true. The Southern gothic aspects do verge on camp. The accents aren't quite right. The movie does condescend to its characters. And it's awfully tawdry.

But none of that detracts from the fun, and some of it actually adds to it.