When it’s over, creepy. Think backwoods. Think murder. Think dead animals. Are you getting the picture? A Miami reporter, Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey), returns to his hometown to investigate a controversial case involving Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack), a man on death row who may be innocent. Ward’s younger brother, Jack (Zac Efron), becomes the chauffer for his brother’s entourage, including Van Wetter’s slutty fiancé, Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), and an African American writer, Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo). These four characters make up the pillars that hold the film together. I like this film for the acting, but did not like if for its storytelling. Director Lee Daniels (Precious) directs the film well, but loses me on the editing table. I find the film confusing at times and some scenes are just unnecessary. It’s not always clear from whose perspective the story is being told. Based on the opening scene, I gather the film is from the Jansen’s maid’s perspective, but as the film develops, I start to feel the story is from Jack’s perspective, then back to the maid's at the end. A clear point of view would have benefited this film. For me, endings are important, and The Paperboy ends in a less than fulfilling manner. I am not familiar with the book by Pete Dexter, which the film is based on, so I cannot compare the endings. But, I can add that the golden rule of "show, not tell" applies perfectly in this case, because seeing what happens to Van Wetter in the end would have been more satisfying for the viewer than being told what happens to him. The acting is top-notch and truly the main reason why I am recommending this film. Even though I did not particularly like the film, I couldn't take my eyes off it. The performances pull me in. McConaughey continues to prove that he is a serious versatile actor. Cusack departs from his usual roles to show us he can become a crazed enigma. Kidman transforms herself and sympathetically brings Charlotte’s vulnerability to the forefront. Efron surprises me with a bold transition from pretty boy to a complex young man in 1969.
My rating: 3.5 out of 5