Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Film Review: THE PAPERBOY: BASED ON THE NOVEL "THE PAPERBOY" BY PETE DEXTER (2012, Lee Daniels)

Jellyfish Stings: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 107 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Starring Zac Efron (HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, 17 AGAIN), Matthew McConaughey (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION, ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD), Nicole Kidman (BMX BANDITS, BATMAN FOREVER), John Cusack (ONE CRAZY SUMMER, CON AIR), David Oyelowo (RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, JACK REACHER), Macy Gray (THE CROW: WICKED PRAYER, the Schwarzenegger AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS), and Scott Glenn (URBAN COWBOY, BACKDRAFT). Co-adapted, and based on the novel by Pete Dexter (MICHAEL, PARIS TROUT, WILD BILL). Directed and co-adapted by Lee Daniels (PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL "PUSH" BY SAPPHIRE, SHADOWBOXER).
Tag-line: None that I could find.
Best one-liner: "IF ANYONE'S GONNA PISS ON HIM, IT'S GONNA BE ME!"

After making PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL 'PUSH' BY SAPPHIRE, Lee Daniels decided to win over mainstream filmgoers once again with a film designed to address capital-I "Important" issues in broad, hilarious strokes and deliver the sort of glossy, over the top melodrama audiences have been deeply craving in the wake of jaw-dropping trashterpieces like CRASH '04, and other films of its ilk.

Originally designed as Pedro Almodóvar's English-language debut (for those who are unfamiliar, he's the post-Franco, candy-colored Spanish fusion of Alfred Hitchcock and John Waters), it was handed off to Mr. Daniels, who no doubt sought to replicate the awards buzz and loving glow he received from PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL 'PUSH' BY SAPPHIRE.   Lucky for us all, Almodóvar left a few of his delightful fingerprints behind on this thing (he supposedly tweaked the treatment, if not the script), and that, combined with a high-budgeted, borderline santicmonious disposition has created a work of lunatic, corporate-funded camp, the likes of which I've never seen before.  It's like if Paul Verhoeven did a remake of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, or as if Lucio Fulci directed THE FIRM.  It is a movie so spectacularly awful and so splendidly sure of itself that it transcends kitsch:  it is "kitschscendent." Ladies and gentlemen:  it's the second installment of Crawdad-Lickin', Southern-Fried Sleaze-O-Rama, and hot damn– my Dixie cup runneth over!

Here's the 1950s sci-fi movie poster rundown:

SEE!

Nicole Kidman giving a Southern accent her best shot and engaging in some "no-touch" masturbation in front of an audience so that her convicted murderer boyfriend (John Cusack) can get off, via mutual manacle masturbation.

Cusack contemplates: mutual manacle masturbation, his paycheck.

This scene is somehow the exact median point between Kathleen Turner's wild courtroom leg thrashing in SERIAL MOM and Sharon Stone's leg-cross-and-uncross technique in BASIC INSTINCT.


Zac Efron's two modes of acting:  looking toward and away from Nicole Kidman.

Just when you think the scene has "peaked," it continues to devolve/escalate and reach new, even trashier depths/heights.  If this film had actually won Academy Awards, I would like to think that this scene– in slow motion and set to sweeping music– would one day be featured in a heartstring-tugging montage about the social courage of Hollywood.

McConaughey's arched eyebrow is well-placed.


David Oyelowo averts his gaze, an act that the audience is somehow unable to do.  It's like watching a car accident.


Pictured:  Oscar gold.   Well, at least Golden Globe gold.  Er, at least Golden Globe nomination gold.  And Golden Globe nominations still mean something– I mean, you can't bribe your way into getting one for anything less than a Cher concert!

WATCH! 

An elderly Scott Glenn successfully maintain his dignity (and some wicked old man sideburns) in the midst of this bayou-blastin' shitshow!

This ain't URBAN COWBOY, pardner!


BEHOLD!

(not pictured)

Matthew McConaughey– bloody, naked, and hogtied– after being raped and tortured by some random dudes in a plotline designed to highlight the plight of closeted gay men during the 1960s, but which instead feels like oddly corporate rape-sploitation that makes PULP FICTION's gimps n' samurai swords look tasteful in comparison.  At least McConaughey is having fun with it, though– after all, this was made the same year as KILLER JOE and MAGIC MIKE.


BEAR WITNESS!

To the best urination scene in Oscar bait since THE GREEN MILE.  You see, what happens is this:

Zac Efron is out for an innocuous swim when he is stung by a cluster of CGI jellyfish.


He makes his way back to the shore in agony, sadly crawling toward trashy Nicole Kidman– his unrequited summer love.  (Did I mention that this movie is sort of framed like a nostalgic, star-crossed, romantic coming of age film?)

Anyway, he is first spied by a gaggle of young women who take note of his jellyfish-stung state and debate who is going to have to urinate on him.
Then Nicole Kidman arrives, and despite being told to call an ambulance,
she becomes combative, drives the young women away, and delivers a line that clearly should have been delivered by, I don't know, an aging Joan Crawford?:
  
"IF ANYONE'S GONNA PISS ON HIM, IT'S GONNA BE ME!"  

Sheer poetry.  This is followed by:
"HE DON'T LIKE STRANGERS PEEIN' ON HIM!"  

She then proceeds to, well, pee on him in a drawn-out mess of a scene, which, as you can see, is described by the subtitles as "full of grunting."
This is one of those
seminal moments
in an aging actress's career,
like Anna Magnani in THE ROSE TATTOO, or Susan Sarandon in DEAD MAN WALKING, or
or Katherine Hepburn in almost anything, from THE AFRICAN QUEEN to GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER 
to, say... ON GOLDEN POND?



CONTEMPLATE!

The long awaited, crawdad-lickin' sex scene between a recently freed John Cusack and his lady love, trashy Nicole Kidman.  Somehow, you already knew that it was going to involve some self-esteem building salad tossing, right?:


It's not my fault that this particular activity has become a recurring motif during this Southern-Fried Sleaze-O-Rama series (or as I newly christened it, "Mason Licksin'").  Also, their sex scene is artfully crosscut with footage of wild boars.

Note grunting.

Either this is a stroke of hilarious, subversive genius worthy of Luis Buñuel...  or an incredibly shallow person's attempt at capital-S "Symbolism."  Either way I'm entertained, so I suppose it doesn't matter much.


GAZE UPON!

An axe versus machete fight scene between an eye-patch-wearing Matthew McConaughey and a greasy bayou John Cusack!  This is clearly worth the price of admission alone.  Though it's brief, it nearly plays like a deleted scene from HARD TARGET!  (No JCVD and Wilford Brimley, though.)


Place yer bets, kiddies!


TAKE A GANDER AT!

The absurdist finale, whereupon the film fully transforms into a FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel, complete with a machete-wielding Jason Voorhees John Cusack chasing a generic teenager Zac Efron around Crystal Lake the bayou.



Cusack taunts him in that ersatz Hollywood Southern accent, and it sounds like "Weahuh yew gooan, papuhboyyy?"  It's pretty damn good.


Hollywood, God bless you for unwittingly pumping cash into making the kind of ludicrous and expensive trash that Russ Meyer could only have dreamed of.
In closing, I have decided that I cannot award THE PAPERBOY any stars, but that I must give it five jellyfish stings out of five. And then I'm going to piss on them.

–Sean Gill

P.S.  Stay tuned for the third and final installment of Crawdad-Lickin', Southern-Fried Sleaze-O-Rama!  Hint:  it could very well be called, "FIFTY SHADES OF EASTWOOD."

8 comments:

gweeps said...

Yeah, this film was nuts. John Cusack must have been working up to do The Frozen Ground in this one.

Matthew McConaughey needs to be nominated for [i]something [/i]next year.

And I must say, Nicole Kidman was amazing here.

You're right in asking just how this film ever got made in this day and age, and with these actors!

Francisco Gonzalez said...

Now I MUST see this! A friend was talking about it the other day...but now I see why!

Mike B. said...

Wow, just...wow. This does look pretty amazing. These are great, I'm hoping this southern fried series becomes a recurring thing!

Sean Gill said...

Gweeps,

Thanks for stoppin' by. And I find myself increasingly looking forward to the crazy shit McConaughey'll do next!

Francisco,

Yeah– it's truly a sight to behold!

Mike,

Thank you, sir– I'm planning on finishing this series up this week with one more installment, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if it pops up now and again..

John Guedes said...

I had a feeling you were going to include THE PAPERBOY in this series!

Definitely one of the ballsyest pieces of cinema in recent years. It was nice to see Cusack and Kidman totally committing to the zany proceedings.

Looks like Daniels is back to win hollywood over again with THE BUTLER. A bit Soderbergh-ish of him, don't you think?

PS - ON GOLDEN POND?!! Bwahahaha

Sean Gill said...

John,

Good to see you– and that is very Soderbergish of him. I suppose we'll see if THE BUTLER BASED ON THE ARTICLE "A BUTLER WELL SERVED BY THIS ELECTION" BY WIL HAYGOOD will carry as much critical heft as he hopes!

Ramiro said...

This is fantastic!

Sean Gill said...

Ramiro,

Glad you enjoyed!