Boring it’s not. This campy Southern trash-wallow is too jaw-dropping for that. Already infamous is the scene in which Nicole Kidman squats down and pees on Zac Efron. Hey, a jellyfish stung him; urine is the best cure. There’s no cure for The Paperboy, the shamelessly lurid film version of Pete Dexter’s 1995 novel. Director Lee Daniels, Oscar-nominated for Precious, follows his instincts, no matter how pervy, leaving plot, character and logic to catch up.
The movie, with a script by Dexter himself, has guts. And heaps of atmosphere. You can practically feel the humidity dripping in Lately, Florida, circa 1969, as Miami Times reporter Ward Jansen (a livewire Matthew McConaughey) returns home to investigate the case of Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack taking creepy to the max), a swamp rat about to be executed for killing a cop. Charlotte Bless (Kidman), a bottle blonde with a jones for guys on death row, thinks Hillary is innocent. Ward’s younger brother Jack (a surprisingly vivid Efron), who delivers the local paper published by his and Ward’s daddy (Scott Glenn), thinks Charlotte sizzles. He’s right. And Kidman, with enough come-on carnality to singe the screen, savors the role like a juicy peach. As Ward and his black partner, Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo), dig for a crime story that might win them a Pulitzer, kinky secrets spill out all over the place. This hot mess got booed by the snobs at Cannes, but there’s no denying its profane energy.