North Texas Daily

Netflix Review: “The Paperboy”

Netflix Review: “The Paperboy”

May 20
15:43 2013

James Clay / Intern

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Set in 1969 and released last year, “The Paperboy” is the story of Ward Jansen, a reporter played by Matthew McConaughey who returns to his hometown in the swamps of Southern Florida to work on a story that might set a wrongfully accused Death Row inmate free. He recruits his younger brother Jack, who is surprisingly well portrayed by former teen heartthrob Zac Efron, to help along with Yardely, his colleague from the Miami Herald played by David Oyelowo.

The trio meets with Nicole Kidman’s character Charlotte, who has been writing love letters to the eccentric inmate Hilary Van Wetter, played by John Cusack. This film is director Lee Daniels’ follow-up to the bleak but critically acclaimed 2009 drama “Precious.”

There is a great story in here somewhere, but the film loses focus trying to piece together themes such as family life, sexual frustration and racism. The three top billed stars do have a solid on-screen chemistry, but Daniels gets distracted from developing the characters with scenes that could have been left on the cutting room floor. At its core, the film is a story about first love, which is wasted on an awkward and sexually overt tone.

However, Efron and McConaughey do have a dynamic worthy of its own story, and the scenes where the brothers are trudging through the swamps highlight the film’s strengths in both character development and visually appealing cinematography.

McConaughey’s acting chops are surprisingly outshined by Efron’s performance, with the former “High School Musical” charmer ditching song and dance numbers for something with depth. The wardrobes in the film were incredibly cool to look at, balancing a retro period sensibility with self-expression in the costuming of each character.

But Daniels was lost in the swamps himself when it came to adequately moving the plot towards a climax. It seems like he couldn’t decide if this film should be a love story, family drama or a thriller about bringing a man to justice. The film feels uncomfortable in its own skin, and the downright creepy moments provided particularly by John Cusack push “The Paperboy” too far off its route. Although the director’s latest effort was promising on paper, with a great cast and momentum from his previous film’s success, this one just falls short.

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