The Paperboy - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Paperboy Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ May 2, 2014
Almost X rated - lots of graphic sex and violence. This is a very dark film, with people making terrible, tragic choices. Cusak, and McConaughey, were excellent....but, even great acting couldn't make all the ugliness worthwhile for me, or save a pointless script.
Super Reviewer
½ August 28, 2013
Set in the Jim Crow south during the civil rights movement, this lurid melodrama follows a college dropout as he helps his journalist brother investigate the case of a man who may have been wrongfully imprisoned; a strange love triangle heats up when he falls for the accused's nymphomaniacal death-row-groupie fiancee. The word "trashy" was invented for stories like this; it's as much fun as a stolen hump in the backseat of a 1965 Chevy Impala.
Super Reviewer
½ June 9, 2013
The movie begins on a promising note. I felt like it'd be a good thriller drama about a newspaper family conducting an investigation whether a convict on a death row deserves it. But it doesn't take long for the drama and thrills to fall into the contemporaries. The performances are excellent, though. Otherwise, just another movie based on a novel. I now understand why it's rated 6 on IMDb.

* Make do with the linguistic mistakes. I MAY rewrite it properly in leisure.
Super Reviewer
May 5, 2013
Dark, but quite liked this. Nicole Kidman is almost unrecognizable, as is John Cusack, really some strong performances and pretty unglamorous roles here.
I actually got this expecting a bad movie, but it's not at all. Mostly it's a thriller, but it's also a coming of age with Zac Efron's character and dysfunctional families (his relationship with his brother. Matthew McConaughey - excessively slimy here).
Super Reviewer
½ March 27, 2013
After his Oscar winning film "Precious", which was an adaptation of Sapphire's novel "Push", director Lee Daniels decides to follow that up with another adaptation. This time it's the 1995 novel of "The Paperboy" by Pete Dexter and another exploration of highly dysfunctional personalities.
Naive reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) heads back to his home town of Lately, where he's determined to exonerate convict Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack), who awaits execution on death row for the supposed murder of a local Sheriff. Ward is accompanied by his brother Jack (Zac Efron), ambitious colleague Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo) and flashy seductress Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) - who has a fetish for incarcerated men and Van Wetter is her latest obsession. The murky details of the investigation soon uncover truths about everyone involved and truths that were better left alone.
This is a film that's very much a mixed bag and it's easy to see why some people just didn't take to it. First off, the narrative is disjointed. At times, it doesn't seem know to which direction it's going in and the tacked-on, voiceover narration, doesn't really help matters. In the earlier part there's humour and it gives the impression that it's got it's tongue stuck firmly in it's cheek. As the film and characters grow, though, it becomes progressively darker. So much so, that it will having you wincing in both disgust and horror. These shifts in tone are less than effortless and also threaten to undo the film as a whole. However, even though the tone is uneven it's throws up many memorable moments; Kidman urinating on Efron's face, Cusack and Kidman engaging in masturbation while 10 feet apart and other brutal and shocking revelations, which I'll allow you to find out for yourself. It's in these memorable moments that you realise where the film's strengths lie; the characters are all three dimensional and the brave cast are uniformly brilliant. Efron has come a long way since his "High School Musical" days and looks like proper leading actor material; McConaughey continues his recent run of seedy and risqué roles; Cusack captures the intensity of a loutish psychopath and Kidman is a revelation as an oversexed floozie. Fine support is also delivered by a surprisingly talented Macy Gray and the enigmatic David Olywewo. It's the very commitment from these actors that has you believing in the material even when their characters' motivations are not always clear or convincing. Another big player in the proceedings is cinematographer Roberto Schaefer. He captures the searing heat and uncomfortableness of backwoods Florida to perfection while balancing the class divide and racial tension that drips from every pore.
Daniels' direction may be a little hyperstylised at times and his grasp on the film's structure is less than convincing. Incoherence does creep in and the film sags around the midriff, becoming in danger of losing interest entirely. At one point, when it should be wrapping up, it throws in further complications and character developments but to give the director his due, he knows how to drop subtle hints without revealing too much, leaving the story's denouement more satisfying than first thought. There's no doubt that this is a flawed endeavour but the scathing opinions of it are a little unwarranted, all-be-it, understandable. There is much to admire. Yes, it's trashy, tawdry and most certainly deranged but it's also edgy and unpredictable which is more than you can say for a lot of studio releases these days.
Sexploitation, exploitation and telekinetic masturbation. What more can you can ask from a film that doesn't pretend to be anything more than a deranged venture into the American south with a committed cast that are game for anything?
This might have been booed at the Cannes film festival but for it's trashy audacity alone, it deserves applause.

Mark Walker
Super Reviewer
February 22, 2013
John Cusack, Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, and Zac Efron headline this very solid, seedy, noir-like crazy movie. Ward(McConaughey) is a reporter who chases a big story by trying to get a killer Hillary(Cusack), who is on death row, off of death row by proving his innocence. Kidman played Charlotte, a "death row groupie" who is engaged to Hilary, and starts a "friendship" type relationship with Ward's little brother Jack(Efron). It's a very intricate movie, and it's hard to explain without ruining the movie. All I knew before watching it was Kidman was up for a Golden Globe, and she pees on Efron(which she does). Kidman is great and probably should have gotten a Supporting Actress nod at the Oscars(she deserves it more than Weaver in "Silver Lining Playbook" I think). But the best performance in this is Cusack. This is nothing like anything he has ever done, and it's amazing to see him like this. He is a total creep, and it may be hard to watch him in his usual nice guys roles again. Efron and McConaughey are both good and when it was over I looked at my wife and said "man, McConaughey had it rough in this movie"(watch it and you'll know why). This movie reminded me a lot like "Killer Joe", in that when you get done you'll want to wash your hands and take a shower. Check it out.
Super Reviewer
February 19, 2012
"This movie reminded me just how creepy John Cusack can be. I am a huge fan of his and when he does films like this, it is a great reminder of how truly talented an actor he is.
I wasn't quite sure if I was going to like this film. I had heard about it around the movie sites and seen a glimpse of a preview for it, but I never really knew what it was about. I guess I was pleasantly surprised. I wouldn't say I enjoyed it, because it isn't a film one enjoys considering the things that take place. But it was good. I think what made this story work was the actor's. Their performances alone made this movie. I think I was mostly surprised by Kidmans performance. Its unlike anything I have ever witnessed her do before. She was raunchy with no shame. She just seems so shy in real life that it was like having cold water thrown in your face to see her do a performance like this and do it so well. I thought she was fantastic. Efron continues to impress me not only with his choice of movie roles, but his performances. He is turning out to be a good actor. I was sure I would never take him serious, but here I am doing just that. McConaughey gives out a good performance as well. He is never disappointing in such serious roles. Another surprise was Macy Gray. I liked her character, Anita, and I thought she was really good in this.
The story is one disturbing tale of Chalotte's obsession with prisoners and her new found love in Hillary Van Wetter, a man sentenced to death for killing a local Officer. Charlottes swears his innocence and brings in Ward and Yardley to help her prove he is innocent of the crime. But once you see how creepy and crazy Wetter is, it's hard to tell if the man really is innocent. I won't give any of it away.
It's a solid movie with great performances form a great cast. I would see it again."
Super Reviewer
January 12, 2013
"The Paperboy" has such a unique story to tell, but when it is accompanied by sloppy filmmaking it almost makes the film feel completely two-sided. Sometimes there are moments of pure greatness in the story, acting, and the way that everything is presented, but the direction and production feels like it is so far under that level that it feels like two separate portions of a film mashed into one. Zac Efron and Matthew McConaughey are great together as Journalists who come to investigate a story about a woman getting her husband out of prison. The plot thickens as she begins to fall for one of the journalists. I must say that Nicole Kidman's performance is unlike anything she has ever done and I highly admired that. This film has so many things wrong with it, but I loved the substance. "The Paperboy" works out to be just another film, and that's pretty sad.
Super Reviewer
½ October 28, 2012
It looks and feels like something made in the 1970s but with this sordid quality about it that makes it so absurdly hilarious in all its filthy nonsense - thanks also to a terrific performance by Nicole Kidman as the trashy Southern blonde, who steals every scene she appears in.
Super Reviewer
½ May 5, 2014
In "The Paperboy," Hillary Van Wetter(John Cusack) has been wrongly convicted of murder in Florida in 1969. At least, that's what Ward(Matthew McConaughey) and his friend Yardley(David Oyelowo) want to think when they arrive in Ward's hometown to write an article about Hillary for the Miami Times. In order to get around, they hire Jack(Zac Efron), Ward's younger brother and college dropout, to drive them. Which is harder than it sounds as Jack is instantly smitten with Charlotte Bless(Nicole Kidman) who of all the convicts she has been corresponding with has taken a particular liking to Hillary.

"The Paperboy" is a delirious and kinky movie that is sunbaked but never overcooked, as Lee Daniels puts his unique spin on a Tennessee Williams style melodrama. The theme of the movie is deception, as all of the characters are either deceiving themselves or somebody else, with the exception of Hillary who is quite happy with who he is, even if few other people are. This is is at a time when the old ways are giving way before the new, as one revolution is on the verge of supplanting another. And it helps that the cast is so very game, with Matthew McConaughey for the first time in a while playing a character who is not trying to be the center of attention.
Super Reviewer
½ January 10, 2013
Infatuated with death-row inmate Cusack, small-town Florida resident Kidman calls on two reporters, McConaughey and Oyelowo, from the Miami Times to investigate the case. McConaughey's kid brother, Efron, becomes obsessed with Kidman who constantly teases the young man.
The director of 'Precious' returns with another misjudged turkey. To describe it as the bastard child of Tennessee Williams and David Lynch is to give the film far too much credit but this seems to be what Daniels is aiming for. Instead, it resembles an uncomfortable collaboration between John Waters and John Grisham. A quality cast embarrass themselves with bad Southern accents and the director seems intent on shocking us with moments of extreme violence and sexuality which merely feel like the work of a juvenile creator.
Super Reviewer
July 11, 2013
A good performance by Nicole Kidman should have been saved. Instead we get a meandering plot line that goes here there and everywhere that isn't good.
Super Reviewer
½ May 19, 2013
Decadent, incoherent, slowly paced, and simply bizarre, Paperboy is a disaster of a film. Part pulp, neo noir, melodrama, and camp, the film is a weird mix. Throw in a narration and a supporting role by Macy Gray, and you have a recipe for a really bad film.

The Paperboy does have a few things going for it. For one, the performances seem to be tonally consistent, and are 'good' from the standpoint that they are all appropriately melodramatic, and work well within the context of the film. Everyone is crazy, compulsive, intense, and illogical. Matthew McConaughehey, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, none of them phoned it in. The cinematography also looks good, and the film generally does a good job of having an atmospheric tone.

The trouble comes from the script and direction of the film. While set-up initially well, the film becomes a meandering mess close to the halfway mark. The supposed 'plot', the murder of a sheriff, is seemingly tossed aside for interchangeable scene after interchangeable scene of weirdness and sexual perversion, and for no apparent purpose or reason. None of it makes any sense. It's as if the entire film is just an excuse for bizarreness for the sake of camp. Yet, the film never seems to want to completely veer in to camp, taking itself very seriously. The problem is, of course, there's really nothing of substance to make one take it seriously.

Because of the disjointed nature of the film, and the weak direction, Paperboy feels relentlessly endless, even at its standard running time. There's no sense of purpose to anything being put on screen, everyone's talents feel wasted in what ends up feeling like an X rated made-for-tv movie, with the target audience of perverts and people of no discerning taste.

A mess.

1.5/5 Stars
Super Reviewer
November 2, 2013
Impressive performances (particularly from Zac Efron and Macy Gray) and stunning photography, not to mention a sweaty, pervasive atmosphere and great locations. But the story is dull and lacks a decent hook, and the characters feel like wonderful potential unfulfilled.
Super Reviewer
February 26, 2012
Though this film will end up being the least respectable in the renaissance of Matthew McConaughey it is necessary to point out he, along with Macy Gray, are the saving grace this film needed to be rescued from the otherworldly mess it could have been and almost is. The Paperboy is based on a 1995 novel of the same name by Pete Dexter and though I've never read the book myself I can imagine the narrative being much more satisfying when built inside the brain rather than watching this incarnation of it smoulder along until it finally becomes somewhat engaging in the final act and becomes ablaze. Shot as a film noir full of sex and racism Lee Daniels follow up to his Oscar nominated Precious shows no signs of what made his previous film so moving. Granted, this is a different kind of movie altogether, but the subject matter could easily draw many similar themes. In 1960's south Florida a reporter and his partner (McConaughey and David Oyelowo) come to town from Miami hoping to investigate a murder case where they believe Hillary Van Wetter (a great, but underused John Cusack) has been framed for the murder of the corrupt local sheriff. When McConaughey's Ward Jansen arrives in town he enlists the help of his younger brother Jack (Zac Efron who is sponsored by Fruit of the Loom) and a woman who has been in contact and fallen in love with Mr. Van Wetter while on death row, Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman). Yes, this is the movie where Kidman pees on Efron and that only serves to illustrate the trust the otherwise great cast has put in their director but what Mr. Daniels has churned out here is an incoherent mess of a movie that drags along and feels like it is going nowhere only to fall back on twists that we can see coming from a mile away. I won't fault the film for trying as it has a clear visual style, interesting musical choices and fine performances, but when a film fails as bad as this one it is very easy to tell the difference between effort and just plain bad.
Super Reviewer
½ May 25, 2012
Destined to become one of those infamously bad movies that people watch for camp. Let me tell you why:
1.The story makes absolutely no sense
2.Lee Daniels' direction is amateurish
3.The editing must have been done in a drunken stupor
4.The characters are all offensive southern caricatures
5.Macy Gray's voice-over narration is unintelligible
6.Nicole Kidman and John Cusack have the most disturbing mutual masturbation scene ever put on film (and their protracted sex scene later-on is just as upsetting)
7.Zac Efron's performance consists of brooding, mumbling, and sitting around (or dancing) in his underwear
8.Kidman pees on Efron after he gets stung by a jellyfish
9.McConaughey plays a closeted homosexual who enjoys having men rape and beat him
10.The ending is laughable and pathetic.
Super Reviewer
January 14, 2013
Credit due to the well known cast for taking on roles that are well out of their comfort zones, but The Paperboy is an uneven, messy film. Struggling to engage with a plot that's been done to death, this will mostly be remembered for its unorthodox narrative devices that seem more like gimmicks than anything all that shocking.
Super Reviewer
April 2, 2012
Reminiscent of the punch provided by "The Killer Inside Me", Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy" places Zac Efron in a performance driven drama that forces him to prove his acting prowess, and he comes out the better for it. Still overshadowed by his acting counterparts, Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, and John Cusack deliver extraordinary performances, all outside of their normal, respected roles. The plot is standard, with very few surprises, and those that do exist come off flat and purely for shock value. However, "The Paperboy" remains sexually charged and does not disappoint, also marking the first truly great performance from Macy Gray, as the housekeeper.
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