Some press and critics at the Cannes Film Festival are already having a field day hurling invectives (a favorite pastime here) against The Paperboy, director Lee Daniels’ first film since his Oscar-nominated work on Precious. This one is based on a well-regarded book by Pete Dexter, who wrote the screenplay with Daniels. It’s about a man (Zac Efron) who tries to help his journalist brother (Matthew McConaughey) investigate the possible wrongful conviction of a man on death row (John Cusack). Nicole Kidman co-stars as a Southern tart who likes her men behind bars and singer Macy Gray is the maid in this 1960’s civil rights era-set wallow that takes place mostly in Florida swamp country (but shot in Louisiana).
At Tuesday morning’s buyers screening and today after the first press screening, reactions seem to be vivid. One critic said “it could be so bad it’s good”. Another compared it to the kind of exploitation pictures Roger Corman regularly turned out. For me, it’s one of those movies that is just dripping with Southern sweat and sleaze — you can smell the place. If it’s an over-the-top wallow into the Deep Deep South of the period, it’s a fun one. You either go with it or you don’t. Tennessee Williams this is not, but it’s fascinating material on many levels and all these actors took a kind of risk and just jumped in without a life preserver; they didn’t do this indie for the money. Avi Lerner’s Millennium and Nu Image produced and the film is up for distribution, as Deadline previously reported, although Lerner could decide to distribute it himself if the deal isn’t right. One top distrib who was at Tuesday’s screening told me they didn’t care for Paperboy, while at least two others said the complete opposite. With a starry cast, exploitable subject matter and scenes already being tweeted all over the place — Kidman peeing on Efron to relieve his jellyfish stings is getting lots of action on the net and the Croisette — in the end it may not matter what any of the auteur-mad critics here have to say. Unlike Precious this is not really a critics kind of movie. It is in fact the commercially oriented Millennium’s first competition entry ever. (more…)