Sunday, January 13, 2013

THE PAPERBOY on DVD/Blu-ray: One of last year's best (exploitation) films is back

So what if it is an exploitation film? THE PAPERBOY remains, as I suspected upon first viewing, one of 2012's best movies. Seeing it a second time makes that even clearer, as one can concentrate more on performance, dialog, visual moments and all those other specifics that go into making a movie terrific (or not). Like Zac Efron eating a piece of jello, sucking it into his mouth for fun and pleasure, the way one sometimes does with gelatin-type desserts. Mr. Efron (shown above and at bottom, right) gives his best performance so far -- watch the little boy seep out of the hot young man in his scenes with Macy Gray and Nicole Kidman (two photo below), both of whom are also quite wonderful -- exceeding even that of his work in Me and Orson Welles and more recently Liberal Arts. (You didn't realize Efron was in that one, did you? He is, and you should see it, too.)

In the Special Features on the disc, director and co-adapter (with Pete Dexter, from Dexter's novel) Lee Daniels explains that Efron was not his first choice but that after meeting with him and seeing his auditions, it was plain that he was the actor for the role. He is, but then so are Matthew McConaughey (bottom, left) and John Cusack (above), both doing work here like you've never seen come out of them.

It is this series of rich characteriza-tions, along with the performances that bring each to life, that makes the movie work so well. Sure it's exploitative: the post-jellyfish encounter and the prison visit, to name two particu-larly trans-gressive scenes. But unlike, say, a piece of exploitation sleaze such as the currently lauded Django Unchained, that has no more than a single aren't-we-clever idea in its mostly empty head, The Paperboy is full of genuine, unsettling life. Both movies deal with race and the American South, but while Tarantino's is a ridiculous, feel-good piece of ahistorical crap that critics and audiences have proven all too eager to embrace, Daniels' film, a walk on the very dark side, makes you think and feel things you might not be ready for.

My original review of the film when it hit theaters is here. Now that it's available for home viewing, give it a try. Sure, it's a difficult movie: often ugly, sometime degrading, yet not for a moment unbe-lievable. These characters -- bad, good, more likely both at once -- are strong and real. Even more than his over-praised Precious, Mr. Daniels has nailed it with this one. The Paperboy hits DVD, Blu-ray, and download sale or rental next Tuesday, January 22.

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