A documentary on a former Miss Wyoming who is charged with abducting and imprisoning a young Mormon Missionary.
Joyce McKinney was former Miss Wyoming. She became a British tabloid darling in the late 1970's when she came over to the UK and kidnapped a young man, holding him hostage. The film tells the story of McKinney's various obsessions; she became obsessed with a young Mormon missionary, but his faith was compromised and, as far as Joyce was concerned, the Mormon church stole him away from her, taking him to England to restore his faith. The levels of obsession are exposed progressively throughout the film. Joyce's fixation on this one person who she claims to love unconditionally is actually quite sad.
She states late on in the film that there is only one love, and she loves the Mormon, and will love no other. This stubborn focus on one love has seen through to her old age, as she fills this love with a dog. The obsession of one love is also propagated in her love of her dog, that once dead, she spends thousands of dollars to get it cloned in South Korea. As with all Morris documentaries, this is a little gem, and is never outwardly judgemental of it's subject matter. It is a tragic tale, and whilst it has been Joyce's own choice, her strong morals are quite touching. However, strip all sympathy aside, and she is simply mental!
Tabloid tell the sensational tale of Joyce McKinney, who was a tabloid sensation in the UK back in the 70's by "allegedly" kidnapping a Mormon acolyte for a weekend of debauchery. Director Errol Morris masterfully reveals the story by way of talking heads, including the editor of one of England's top tabloid newspapers of the time as well as Ms. McKinney herself (a natural born actress if ever there was one). She plays fast and loose with a lot of information, all told with a certain happy-go-lucky bit of glee; a raconteur who you could listen to for hours, even while telling of her temporary imprisonment and eventual escape from the British Isles.
For his part, the Brit editor seems equally caught up in the outrageousness of the story, and uses several lovely English colloquialisms to further lighten up the festivities. But underneath it all there is a dark side - that of the beginnings of media sensationalism - the likes of which give the Paris Hilton's of the world constant attention, even though they have done absolutely nothing noteworthy. In the case of Ms. McKinney, what should have been a simple human interest story, barely worthy of Andy Warhol's' 15 minutes of fame, became the story that refused to die.
The big question is whether McKinney, who "admits" to an I.Q. of 168, and was a former Miss Wyoming, was simply trying to pry her man from the clutches of the evil Mormon church by kidnapping the elder in training, or if, as she professes in lovely detail, he came with her willingly and then, facing excommunication, claimed to be a victim.
The story should have ended after the trial and her release on bail before sentencing, after her daring incognito escape from Britain, but, just as the media wouldn't let go of her initial story, the film goes further, introducing the head photographer from the rival tabloid, The Mirror, who purports that McKinney spent time in LA as a call girl. This part of the film drags just a bit, but gives you the necessary doubt that all isn't as Ms. McKinney would have you believe.
After scandalous nudie pics start getting plastered all over the front page of The Mirror, pics that McKinney claims were composites (her head on another body - and believe what you will on that one), she retreats to a remote farm, trying to steer clear of the paparazzi and becoming agoraphobic (she claims). This of course leads to a further bizarre tale circa mid 80's where she buys a huge mastiff for protection, the dog is poisoned, the pharmacy messes with the doses of the poor dogs medicine, causing the dog to go bonkers and attack McKinney, and almost killing her (saved only by a pit bull stray she had picked up only a month earlier). This crazy tale just keeps on going, with McKinney then, years later, making contact with a South Korean geneticist who then clones her beloved pit bull. News of the event once again, of course, puts her back in the limelight.
A crazy tale, told exceedingly well - a wild ride that's interesting and just plain fun. Probably the most fun I've had watching a doc ever - highly recommended.
Nate's Grade: B
In the end, we really aren't any closer to a certainty than we were in the beginning. It's not even clear what the director thinks about his subject. But Morris definitely shows an interest in his topic that comes through. The drama is intriguing and worthy of his talent. Tabloid may not have the sense of importance of his best work, but it is entertaining and well produced. It's like a good mystery that lacks an ending that neatly explains everything. In a documentary, that's actually kind of admirable.
Morris's efforts to make McKinney's narration more "visual" seem fairly desperate -- his device of plastering her words onscreen like tabloid headlines is hardly subtle -- and, really, the whole film should have been shelved as soon as Morris discovered McKinney's love object Kirk Anderson was not willing to be interviewed. Minus his version of the events, the story is hopelessly lopsided.
A) rescued Kirk Anderson, a Mormon, from a cult which is broadly defined by a character in "Angels in America" as any religion that is less than 2,000 years old. Regardless, as depicted, Mormonism is a lot wackier than I could have imagined.
B) kidnapped and raped him over a period of three days, so she could be impregnated by him.
C) somewhere in between, as suggested by one interviewed expert in that whatever did happen between them was consensual, followed by Anderson having a massive Mormon guilt trip, a hundred times more potent that Catholic guilt.
Errol Moris is not really interested in the truth whcih works for and against the documentary. On the one hand, he is confident enough that the viewer can come to his own conclusions. But on the other, he falls into the trap of the tabloids which are not really interested in the truth either, just in telling a good story.(One tabloid employee admits to changing ropes to chains in articles to make McKinney's story in his newspaper sound even more lurid.) Morris also does not really provide any new insights into tabloid culture, or compare their coverage to other newspapers, which is a shame considering that the real truth, recently revealed, about them is so much worse than we could have possibly imagined.