Sunday, 6 January 2013


Lee Daniels' belligerently brassy follow-up to the double Oscar winning Precious is a hot mess of pure luridness, misplaced ambition and an undercooked hybrid of genres and styles, assembled all ragtag at Daniels' behest. It's like a neon light near the end of its life - flickering on and off, moments of brightness, moments of darkness, and a sensation of hollow dissatisfaction at the end. But the seediness has an intoxicating, sweaty allure. The Paperboy is set in the swampy backwoods of summertime Florida, and its smothering heat - there's only one thing to do in such heat: give in. Daniels gives in, his film is drenched in it, soggy and slippery, and falling apart; he makes no attempts to tidy things up - is this because it would spoil the film's squalidness, so apparently important, or because it would expose his directorial ineptitude? Alas, that's already on display. Daniels isn't any more fearless than most other directors, just more immediately interested in topics which others might consider peripheral to the story - his filmmaking acumen only seems engaged in such moments, especially the most explicit ones. The Paperboy's story never gets started, and it's hard to tell what it's even about, so mumbled is the dialogue. The climax seems less a natural conclusion to this non-story, more a means of manufacturing one most efficiently, and that most fundamental part of the job as director, blocking, is a nagging sore spot for him, as figures loll about the frame, ambling around spaces until their next line. It's trash, undoubtedly, but I don't believe that Daniels intended to make bad trash, incoherent, vapid trash - I believe that he tried to make good trash, vibrant, stimulating trash. Stimulation appears in the form of an able cast only, and most potently in Nicole Kidman, burning a hole through the screen as Charlotte Bless. She's in her own movie, and Kidman is brilliantly aware of this, and it's a much better movie than this one, at least when she's not in it.