Tabloid - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Tabloid Reviews

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Super Reviewer
March 13, 2012
"Tabloid" is an invasive, if underwhelming, character study that follows the life of Joyce McKinney, a former beauty queen with a genius IQ and a penchant for histrionics. While Joyce McKinney is undoubtedly an interesting subject for this taboo documentary, the execution of Errol Morris is left wanting. The title of the film is misleading, since most of the focus lies on Joyce, and little to do with the actual media, or tabloids. Most of the film concerns cartoonish recreations of the alleged events, and interviews with McKinney and her accomplices. Her victim doesn't give his two cents, and the message of the film is very up in the air. Is Morris trying to say something about media, about the antics of this beautiful kidnapper, or is he simply displaying her for the audience to ooh and aah over? McKinney's story is interesting, but this would have worked just as well as a "Where Are They Now?" article, or as a book. This medium really wasn't necessary to express the trivialities of a former criminal even if she is entertaining to watch.
Super Reviewer
May 1, 2012
"As Brigitte Bardot said, I gave my youth to men and my old age to dogs I can trust."

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!
Super Reviewer
½ March 19, 2012
Usually in a documentary the director slants the facts to suit an agenda; either by judicious editing of talking head testimony, or by omitting certain facts. In the case of Tabloid, you have a refreshing expose of events portrayed through the usual witness testimonies, but with a certain lightness and tongue in cheek that is totally apropos to the bizarre content being reported.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ July 15, 2011
One of the most bizzare, unpredictable, and entertaining documentaries that I've seen. You have to see this one to believe it, and then you can make your own mind up about what really happened.
Super Reviewer
January 5, 2012
How Morris finds these people is beyond me. However, he manages again to tell an incredibly bizarre story through the mouths and pictures of the odd players involved. He doesn't seek to understand these people, he more or less just presents the fiction that they weave. It is a unique approach, and can be annoying if you are looking for the gospel truth of the events that he covers, but Morris sure knows how to tell one hell of story. And this one is nothing short of fascinating.
Super Reviewer
December 12, 2011
Funny and larger than life story told by one of the best. I would explain it to you, but finding out about it is half the fun. I could have watched this lady being interviewed for hours.
Super Reviewer
½ October 8, 2011
'Tabloid'. The stranger than fiction true story of the larger than life, wacky Joyce McKinney. Ironic or not, it felt extremely satirical, given that through this documentary, McKinney has been once again-unwillingly or otherwise-been exploited.
Super Reviewer
½ October 5, 2011
"What do cloned puppies have to do with kidnapped Mormons?," asks Joyce McKinney. You'll find out in this documentary about the bizarre British tabloid sensation case in which the former beauty queen was accused of abducting a missionary, tying him up, and forcing him to have sex with her for three days. It's a strange, funny and ultimately inconclusive story, told entirely through interviews. The only downside is the suspicion that McKinney, who doesn't seem to be on speaking terms with reality, may be being exploited for her entertainment value once again, thirty years after the initial scandal. P.S.: Decout Mormons should stay away from this movie, as the Church does not come off well.
Nate Z.
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2011
Legendary documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line, The Fog of War) has always had a knack for telling quirky stories involving quirky real-life interview subjects. From people who taxidermy their dead pets to a capital punishment engineer/Holocaust denier, Morris has a gift for making his subjects comfortably candid, and then the man gets out of the way of a good story. And if nothing else, Tabloid is a juicy story that seems too good to be true. As one journalist says, "It had everything." In 1977, Joyce McKinney, former Miss Wyoming beauty queen, was charged with kidnapping a Mormon man, who she claimed was her boyfriend and had been brainwashed by church leaders. This kidnapping included handcuffing the man to a bed and "three days of food, fun, and sex." Taking place in Britain, the sensational "Case of the Manicaled Mormon" fascinated the U.K. and turned McKinney into a prized media figure. When she escaped back to the U.S. posing as a deaf mute with a suitcase full of wigs and disguises, it made her even more famous. British tabloids were in a McKinney arms race, trying to out-scoop the other, unearthing secret lusty bondage pictures. Amazingly, McKinney agreed to appear on camera and tell her story, and boy does this woman speak her mind. Morris does not present McKinney up for easy ridicule. She presents a perky version of events, and it's easy to feel the pull of this woman who is a natural storyteller. Whether her version of the "truth" is real is another matter. I wish Tabloid had dug a little deeper and had more ambition to it. The nature of tabloid journalism, sensationalism, and the ambiguous nature of truth gets ultimately swept aside by the bizarre twists and turns of the story and the outsized personality of McKinney. Tabloid certainly isn't close to the best documentaries Morris has fashioned, but it's a fascinating story that sells itself.

Nate's Grade: B
Super Reviewer
½ August 10, 2011
Errol Morris' unbiased presentation of the facts, or at least how the principals see them, is riveting. On the one hand, there is a woman who claims she went to England to rescue her husband from the Mormons who brainwashed him. On the other hand, you have a man who alleges he was kidnapped at gunpoint, then raped while shacked to a bed. Perhaps reality is somewhere in the middle as one ex-Mormon suggests. He recounts how the church exploited the controversy as an ominous reminder of the feminine wiles of the fairer sex. Despite the sensational and salacious details, the tone is clearly tongue in cheek. The information is presented with animations and collages that recreate scenes and old film stock that illustrates the points being made. They're humorous and keep things interesting. However, none of that even comes close to being as affecting as the conversations with the woman at the center of the situation.

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.
Super Reviewer
February 23, 2012
It's an over-produced, underwhelming, but still entertaining documentary. The opening credits hint at a character study, but it's really just highlight storytelling with (crazy) Joyce McKinney and a couple of sleazy British tabloid journalists. Forgoing any build-up or tension, the film sound-effects right into the primary conflict: Joyce "falls in love" with some Mormon, and kidnaps him in Britain. The scandalous details are well-documented here, and we sufficiently deduce that McKinney is gonzo (and her raspy laughter a bit demonic), but there's not much more to it than reliving old tabloid headlines. Tabloid may have been attempting to illustrate a media mindset by detailing dueling tabloid papers and dangling tantalizing nuggets to the audience as some kind of slinky burlesque. And as a piece of entertainment, it pretty much succeeds, but as as a thoughtful analysis of the mechanisms that elevated the story to ridiculous heights, I wasn't feeling it.
Super Reviewer
October 25, 2010
A strangely trivial project for Errol Morris. Joyce McKinney is a most entertaining speaker, and this former beauty queen's unlikely obsession with a Mormon missionary makes for a spicy first act. But from there, the story recedes into dull talk of paparazzi coverage and the bondage trade. Momentum grinds to a halt. Eventually, there's a notable tale about her cloning a beloved pet, but the question of the venture's success is not adequately explored.

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.
Super Reviewer
August 4, 2011
Proving that not only is truth stranger than fiction, but that it's sometimes even stranger than truth, Errol Morris once again goes digging for strange, strange gold and comes up with a real find. Using largely first-person interviews, Morris brings us Joyce McKinney, a North Carolina beauty queen who... well... I guess it's not giving away too much to say she falls in love with a Mormon and then kidnaps him to get him to love her back. But that's, seriously, just the very, very tip of a very, very odd iceberg. By the time the story takes a jaw-dropping turn in the last act (no spoilers here) to put this gal back in the news, you honestly just won't believe your ears. Lord the world is full of interesting people.
Super Reviewer
½ August 2, 2011
According to "Tabloid," an entertaining documentary from Errol Morris, Joyce McKinney, a former beauty queen with an IQ of 168, in 1977:

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.
Super Reviewer
July 8, 2011
What makes Joyce Kinney so fascinating is that the beats of her life are the stuff of bad, lurid screenwriting. Probably the only true (or even fictional) story that begins with a possible kidnapping and ends with cloning,
Super Reviewer
July 26, 2011
Errol Morris brings to us a movie that certifies the phrase "you can't make this shit up!" A truly amazing chronicle of a pathological narcissist, Tabloid is as topical today what with the current Murdoch debacle. Joyce McKinney epitomizes crazy. (7-26-11)
Super Reviewer
½ February 5, 2012
I came across this documentary randomly while browsing for something to watch in boredom when I came across this funny little gem. How had I never heard this story before? Maybe because most of it took place in England? Either way I'm glad I saw it. Tabloid is a doc about a former Miss Wyoming who abducts a Mormon she is in love with and seduces him with the hopes of converting him. A media circus ensues. The story isn't just wacky, I love the amusing spin Errol Morris put on this film.
Super Reviewer
January 30, 2012
Such an interesting story and engaging film. You almost can't believe all this happened and that these people actually exist. But, this is one crazy-good documentary.
Super Reviewer
½ November 4, 2011
Not Morris' best, but definitely an interesting subject. Joyce might be a bit off mentally, but she was a very sexy young lady. I'd love to be the fly on the wall to see what really happened over the years.
Super Reviewer
July 1, 2011
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