A veteran industry writer recently told me that he's thinking of penning an essay comparing Lee Daniels to Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Food for thought… I'm looking forward to reading that piece.
Lee Daniels' The Paperboy, which screened at the Cannes Film Festival 2 months ago – its world premiere – will be released by Millennium Entertainment in USA theaters on October 5.
As you may recall, the film sharply divided critics after its debut screening at Cannes. But of course – has he ever made a film (whether directed himself or produced) that didn't sharply divide audiences/critics? Monster's Ball, Shadowboxer, The Woodsman (although not as much as the others), Precious, and now this.
I'm actually looking forward to checking it out myself, if only to see what all the hoopla is about.
The rundown recap…
First, there was this comment which apparently shocked some people when Lee Daniels said it at the post-screening press conference.
Zac Efron is said to spend a significant part of the film in his underwear, and as Movieline notes…
… at one point dancing in the rain in his briefs with a very platinum and seductive Nicole Kidman. Never one to mince words, Lee Daniels set the record straight when asked about Zac Efron being "eroticized" in the new film: "He's good looking, the camera can't help but love him… And I'm a gay man – you know!"
That made me laugh actually. He's pretty much saying, yeah, Efron is "eroticized," no different than say Michael Bay, who's straight, eroticizing just about every young female character in most of his movies. What's good for the goose…
And then the reviews came flying in…
From The Hollywood Reporter:
Instead of getting all prestigious after the success of Precious, Lee Daniels has gone even more down and dirty with The Paperboy, a tasty wallow in sordid goings-on down South in 1969. Basking in a funky, disreputable feel despite its prestigious source material and classy cast, the film has been crafted to resemble a grungy exploitation melodrama made in the period it depicts, which might mystify the uninitiated but gives the film an appealingly rough and rasty texture. There is no release date set yet, but Millennium would probably be well advised to jump straight into wide release rather than go the specialized route, as many upscale urban types will likely look down their noses at the trashy milieu and behavior.
From The Playlist, who weren't as kind, calling it a disatrous flop:
The classic question of bad movies is "Who wrote this shit?" But we know the answer to that, usually, up in the credits in bold shameless type. What "The Paperboy" demonstrates all too well is that the better question to ask of a bad movie is "Who read this shit and thought any good could come of it, whether stars or crew or producers or distributors?" "Precious" had its admirers and detractors and some who were split down the middle; I thought it was a well-acted, overdone bit of kitchen-sink drama that really blew the lid off the social crises of the Reagan era. "The Paperboy," though, is something else entirely — a lurid, florid, humid, flaccid and insipid waste of time and money for the audience and for everyone who made it.
From The Guardian – they loved it:
A heady, humid swamp fever rises from Lee Daniels's violent and black-comic Florida noir The Paperboy, based on the thriller by Pete Dexter: a lazy, funny tone co-exists with menace, and Nicole Kidman gives her best performance since To Die For. Race, sex, journalism, publishing and 60s America are all part of the mix – The Help was never like this – and Daniels keeps it bubbling. This gripping, scary and queasily funny picture nurtures a dark threat which lurks like one of its gators just below the surface.
From The Telegraph:
The Paperboy is a transcendentally awful romance-stroke-crime drama set in the sweltering Florida boondocks of 1969. It is based on an acclaimed novel by Pete Dexter, which has been utterly mangled in the adaptation.
And from Variety:
Racial prejudice, journalistic ethics and a half-naked Zac Efron are among the pressing matters on the mind of "The Paperboy." A very special delivery indeed, director Lee Daniels' follow-up to "Precious" is a risibly overheated, not unenjoyable slab of late-'60s Southern pulp trash, marked by a sticky, sweaty atmosphere of delirium and sexual frustration that only partly excuses the woozy ineptitude of the filmmaking. With Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey and John Cusack wading through a murky swamp of a story, this patchy potboiler should generate some theatrical curiosity but will look more at home on checkout stands.
There are many more, but you get the picture. It looks like love or hate, just as you'd expect with any Lee Daniels film.
Several of the reviews cringed at the crassness of it all, especially a scene in which Nicole Kidman's character is said to urinate on a wound Efron's character got from a jellyfish sting, in an attempt to heal it.
Too bad S&A wasn't repped at the festival this year. I'd have loved to read MsWOO's thoughts on this.
Anyway… the film is now with distribution in a number of international territories, so some of us we'll all get a chance to see it sooner than later.
In the meantime, here's your first good look at the madness within: