Coming out of the Cannes Film Festival, the talk of director Lee Daniels' The Paperboy seemed to be this: It's no Precious. I took that to be an indictment on the quality of the pulpy, sex- and crime-infused adaptation of a novel by Pete Dexter, but it actually may have been a reaction purely to the fact that it's "pulpy." Although the Southern-set drama, which is set to release October 24, has just a 54% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes from sixteen reviewers, the recently released trailer looks intriguing. It even includes a quote from Film Journal contributor Jon Frosch (writing for the Atlantic blog), who came out in favor of the film.
The plot of The Paperboy involves a woman (Nicole Kidman) who wants to get her man (John Cusack) out of prison. She ends up romantically involved with one of two brothers and writers (Zac Efron) who is trying to help her free the imprisoned man. The other is played by Matthew McConaughey. Once known mainly for tabloid shots of his abs on the beach and leading man roles opposite Kate Hudson, McConaughey has been branching out. He is currently starring in Killer Joe, which our critic Rex Roberts also described as a pulpy tale that "exults in its in-your-face nudity, perverse sexuality and graphic violence." McConaughey also has a role in this summer's indie breakout hit Bernie. Last year, he made quite an impression as an independent-minded, flexible lawyer in The Lincoln Lawyer. He's also starring in director Jeff Nichols' (Take Shelter) follow-up project Mud, opposite Reese Witherspoon. And let's not forget Magic Mike, which successfully riffs on his sexy image. I would have written McConaughey off a few years ago, but his role in The Paperboy is part of a powerful redirection of his star image. Not many actors can pull that off. Plus, the Texas-born star is the only one that can pull off a Southern accent, mainly because he doesn't try to overdo it like everyone else. Even Frosch, who praises the bleached-blonde Kidman's performance, says she sports an "accent that samples every twang from Southern-fried to Australian outback." The Paperboy sounds like that summer beach read you just can't put down. The trailer is putting the October release back into my must-see queue, because I may just need a little summer sizzle this fall.