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‘The Paperboy’

by Kaori Shoji

Swamp trash melodrama unfolds with stylish 1960s grittiness in “The Paperboy” and demonstrates Nicole Kidman’s ability to fashion herself into an angel fallen to Earth in the guise of a hooker. She plays Charlotte Bless, a peroxide blonde who makes no bones about having just one interest in life: men. With shocking pink lipstick offsetting her tight minidresses, she’s always breathless and desperate for sex with just about anyone.

Charlotte is of a type you don’t come across all that often in recent cinema, but actually is a much-loved 20th-century staple. From Raymond Chandler to Elmore Leonard to Robert B. Parker, detective novelists have plopped Charlotte equivalents in the middle of crime scenes and murderous intrigues to set off chain-link fireworks of sex and violence.

Our Charlotte is, however, in a class of her own. Whatever else you may have heard about “The Paperboy,” the infamous scene is when she urinates on a young lad on a public beach, in broad daylight. They both love it.

The Paperboy
Rating
Director Lee Daniels
Run Time 107 minutes
Language English

Charlotte aside, “The Paperboy” is packed to the gills with sex and sexual innuendo, so much you start to wonder what else people do in this sweltering South Florida town for recreation. The story revolves around death-row convict Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) and a sheriff’s murder that he may not have committed. Miami reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) thinks he did, and brings his partner Yardley (David Oyelowo) down to investigate. Ward’s swimming-champion brother Jack (Zac Efron) is home from college, so big brother hires him as an assistant.

None of the three men are prepared for the sudden appearance of Charlotte, as she literally sashays her way into their lives on five-inch heels. Charlotte says she is Hillary’s fiancée and claims to be madly in love with him, despite her never having seen him in person. Theirs is a romance conducted over lusty love letters and now Charlotte is determined to get him out, if only to consummate their relationship in the proper way. Which is putting it very, very mildly.

Before you can say “bitch on wheels,” Charlotte has the three “paperboys” circling each other like wolves in heat. She strings all of them along but is especially merciless toward Jack, even as she assures him that the demented, possibly dangerous Hillary is her one true love.

When Charlotte and Hillary meet in the penitentiary for the first time (courtesy of Ward) they are banned from touching each other but reach orgasm anyway, a scene that’s both ludicrous and shocking. Cusack, renowned for playing likable guys with a streak of innocence, comes off here as a maniacal sex monster, dragged in from the swamp and dripping with sludge.

Directed by Lee Daniels (“Precious”), “The Paperboy” is not an easy film to sit through or take in. Daniels is kept busy balancing gooey sex and sizzling story line, and the result is precarious at best. But at least he’s in total solidarity with the rest of the cast in that everyone lets their defenses down to go all out for dirty. There’s no damage control, no cleanup operation and no excuses. When the lights come back on, you may find your orderly existence just a little too sterile for comfort.

  • Hes Man

    That was an excellent Review and Nicole KIdman was great in “the paperboy”.