This film is so good that even after hours of mental marinating it is impossible to escape the aura of its mastery. Lee Daniels (“Precious”) is fearless and at times controversial in his selection process. “The Paperboy” based on the novel by Pete Dexter is brutally raw and unflinchingly honest, never shying from the taboo. The film commences with “Anita” (pristine, sensitive performance by Macy Gray) narrating the story of the “Janson” newspaper family that she has toiled, for untold years as a maid, cook and anchor.
In 1969, the detested, abhorrent Sheriff of swampy Moat County Florida, is murdered. “Hilary Van Wetter” (supremely powerful acting by John Cusack) is on death row for the crime. Brothers “Jack” (Zac Efron) and “Ward” (Matthew McConaughey) Janson along with fellow reporter Englishman “Yardley Acheman” (David Olelowo) unearth evidence of Hillary’s wrongful conviction. While in prison Hillary has wooed through copious letters, slutty, sensational “Charlotte Bless”. Nicole Kidman as Charlotte is positively mesmerizing; perfect blend of divine and dirty; sexy and sincere; voice and body ooze total uninhibited, unabashed sensuality; shrouded in genuine goodness and kindness. Nicole as Charlotte is unforgettable.
Matthew McConaughey exercises his inimitable skills as a method actor. “Ward Janson” facially scarred, tenacious, charming, loving and protective of his brother, “Jack”. He and co-writer “Yardley” search for truth while obfuscating secret demons. Ward, like all the principals, has vulnerabilities. McConaughey shines as a tortured, tormented incomplete human being.
Zac Efron, “Jack” a twenty-year-old, gifted swimmer, booted off the team and school for his uncontrollable temper; he is drowning in his love for Charlotte; so fine and candid is his performance, you empathize and grieve, recognizing the futility of desiring the unattainable; destined never to be requited. He is the “driver” and “paperboy”, a gopher for the family newspaper.
“The Paperboy” is not for the squeamish; resoundingly gruesome, enough blood to satisfy a coven of thirsty vampires; but unquestionably realistic; characters flawed, but hauntingly real; like the swamps, their murky depths unknown, forever.