Lee Daniels’ Precious earned the director praises as one of the promising new filmmaker in Hollywood. But before the 2009 movie, his Shadowboxer in 2005 showed his sensibility. It was about professional killers Cuba Gooding Jr. and Helen Mirren who are stepmother and stepson and at the same time lovers.
Now Daniels brings The Paperboy. It is based on a novel written by Pete Dexter and stars Zac Efron as Jack Jansen, a competitive swimmer who was kicked out of college. The movie combines sex, race, and murder.
The Paperboys is set in the early 1970s in a Florida backwater. After he is kicked out of college, he goes back to his hometown and delivers the newspaper supervised by his father (Scott Glenn) and mistress (Nealla Gordon).
Ward (Matthew McConaughey), Jacks’ older brother, is a reporter from Miami. He comes home chasing a story about a local woman, Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), who likes writing to Death Row inmates. She is involved with an inmate, Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack), who is waiting for his execution for killing a sheriff. Charlotte claims that Hillary is innocent and can prove it but his public defender ignores the evidence. Local law enforcers hide it from prying eyes.
Jack becomes the driver for his older brother, Charlotte, and his writing partner, Yardley (David Oyelowo). Yardley seems to have a hold on Ward. The group starts meeting with Hillary, who uses the time to ogle on Charlotte. But Jack falls for Charlotte and is convinced that she deserves better than Hillary.
Paperboy has a lot of layers but Daniels is too undisciplined as a filmmaker to make anything out of the story. It is erratic as it is both sensational and nonsensical. Watch it if you want to see Nicole Kidman as a trailer trash.