For the first time in its 50-year history, the Festival has done a Tribute to a cinema icon. Nicole Kidman was given this honor.
Nicole showed up in a beautiful red dress with golden glitter and answered smart questions from Program Director Richard Peña for nearly an hour before the screening of The Paperboy.
Unfortunately, this sophomore effort of director Lee Daniels, who created the exceptional film Precious, was not at all precious, nor was it the highlight of the evening.
Due to his initial success, Daniels was able to attract excellent talent like Nicole Kidman to The Paperboy. And, she is excellent. John Cusack is excellent. Macy Gray is excellent. Matthew McConaughey, who is not usually, in my opinion, excellent, is on a roll since Killer Joe, this summer, and is excellent. In trying to keep up with the others, Zac Efron, who is too novice to have yet been excellent, turns in his best effort to date.
The problem is like that of The Master. They’re in a story about low-life, stupid and/or unlikable characters that is poorly written with erratic direction and editing.
The only likable character is Macy Gray’s Anita, who is the narrator of the film, speaking we know not to whom for a reason we know not why because it seems to be some years after the fact. And, Anita, who later endears us, looks like she’s stoned, so, in reflection, her arc is not so endearing.
Nicole Kidman’s Charlotte, who wants to marry a mean-spirited convicted murderer she’s never met, supposedly, because she believes he’s innocent brings out, in a scene after she’s slept with Zac Efron’s Jack, a street-smart wisdom that elevates her above anyone else in this lurid story. But, then, she goes off to live in a swamp with Cusack’s wife-beater Hillary, who, ultimately, kills her.
It doesn’t make sense; nor does a confusing editing style where shots stutter, seeming to leave out frames of, for instance, walking to a door. The character starts and then, without a cut to a new shot, is at the door without the intervening steps. Perhaps this was a way to shorten the film, but it could have been more easily done by not making it in the first place.
I have to, at least, give it a 2 out of 5 because of some great performances, the guts of shooting in the swampland and in the hopes everyone involved in this film learned what not to do in the future.