I used to claim that Across the Universe was the worst movie I had ever seen, but The Paperboy takes the title. It opened the New Orleans Film Festival last night, which makes some sense because it was filmed in Louisiana and was the first “serious” film from Louisiana-based Millennium Films.
It is legitimately horrible, and not in any sort of entertaining way. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone. Throughout the movie, I tried to figure out Lee Daniels’ agenda. I can only imagine that he hates his audience as much as he loves to watch people be raped and abused (don’t worry: both Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey are the victims of the two horrific pseudo-rape scenes). Sure, he might be fascinated with sexual violence the way that PETA members have an obsession with watching videos of animals being tortured, but it’s not something I find entertaining or enlightening, especially when the rest of it is so full of trash camp quality to lighten the mood. (In one of the many moments in which audience members laughed uncomfortably, Macy Gray breaks the fourth wall in her narration of the film and says, “It’s kinda weird that I’m talking while you see this,” during the sex scene between Kidman and Zac Efron.)
And there’s so much more that I just wish to forget. I shouldn’t be surprised at the content, as the film is based on a novel by Pete Dexter, who won the National Book Award for Paris Trout, a book that was so vile and pointless (it features a scene in which the title character rapes his wife with a soda bottle in some kind of sophomoric homage to Faulkner) that I actually threw it in the garbage after I slugged through the first hundred pages. Trash like this continues the narrative of Southern identity as poor white trash; it’s sadistic in its depiction rather than taking the time to get to the bottom of why the culture exists as it does.