Film: Lee Daniels – The Paperboy

by H. Clent Bowers

Magazine     >    Reviews

Written by H. Clent Bowers for THE ARTISTS FORUM MAGAZINE
Edited by
Courtesy of The Paper Boy (Millennium Films)

3.5 out of 5 stars


Director: Lee Daniels
Writers: Lee Daniels, Peter Dexter
Original Music: Mario Grigorov
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, Zac Efron, and David Oyelowo

LOS ANGELES, CA (October 25, 2012) Lee Daniels is a force to be reckoned with. When most of us saw the film Precious, we felt the effects of his direction for days and weeks to follow. Once again, we find the same effects of his direction in The Paperboy. Based on a true story about the murder of a mean ole sheriff in the good old South, this Southern Gothic/coming-of-age tale spins a gritty story of who done it.

Zac Efron in “The Paperboy”
Nicole Kidman in “The Paperboy”

A young woman (Nicole Kidman) in love with the man jailed for the crime, pursues his innocence with the local family newspaper. The paperboy (Zac Efron) is the youngest son of the newspaper owner. During the research of justice for the unjust, the paperboy takes a trip to manhood and responsibility. His companion and guardian angel in this journey is the family maid who has helped to raise him much of his life. The two hero’s are surrounded by a dark and real world which shows the true underbelly of this southern town, and the best and the worse in the other characters involved. We see many tragic turns in which this young hero must quickly learn, survive, and grow while witnessing a hell on earth.

Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron in “The Paperboy”
Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron in “The Paperboy”

I found the reaction of the professional audience with whom I saw the film to be very interesting. During the final credits, half of the room applauded the movie the other half hissed. I had never heard this group hiss a film before. I have seen films by Lynch and Tarantino — just as sordid if not more so, and they were heralded as masterpieces by this group. So what was different here? The acting was excellent and the music divine. I was and am confused.

Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, and David Oyelow in “The Paperboy”
Nicole Kidman in “The Paperboy”

The single comment I received from a fellow artist was this; “Daniels lost his way… the film was scattered and went nowhere,” and “no one could survive a night swim with gators.”   My retort was, “Yes, however, I thought it thorough, not scattered,” and that “I found the night swim with gators more a metaphor blended with his ability to escape danger through the thing he loved  in life; Calmness through swimming.”

Art is subjective — it’s easy to criticize  those who make bold statements. Is that it, or is it that what we expect from Daniels is to show us more of the underbelly of poor black people?  I hope not. I hope that we judge our art from the perspective of trying to see what the artist is saying and taking from it what we can. In this film, we see how all the characters were touched and changed by this paperboy’s journey.

For more information about The Paperboy, visit:

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