Hey, Florida people, now you have hard evidence for a class-action defamation lawsuit. Its name is The Paperboy. And I know, you're like, "But we're Florida. It has to be really gruesome for us to be offended, for we are a mosquito-choked marsh of malaria-driven insanity, the state where Flannery O'Connor unleashed a symbolic Christ-figure serial killer in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," the state that invented the Backstreet Boys. All we have that's good is the Fake Hogwarts in Orlando, lots of awesome death metal bands, LeBron James and streets named after Ponce de Leon. What more can this cruel life throw at us?"
How about the new movie from Lee Daniels? He made the crushingly sad Precious and, before that, the crushingly insane Shadowboxer. And now, post-zig, he's zagging back to crazy. Ostensibly about a journalist (Matthew McConaughey) investigating the murder of a sheriff in 1969 and the various metaphorical and literal swamps he finds himself sinking in alongside Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, John Cusack and Macy Gray, it's really a collective exercise in heaving, panting, grinding, greasy absurdity. Daniels is out to deliver a slice of crotch-grabby Americana you didn't ask for, with atmospheric disemboweling of alligators conveying dread and rape-sex cut with shots of dead possums conveying... who knows, rape-sex and dead possums, I guess. It's the MadLibs version of a Terrence Malick film, crowbarring gigglier, raunchier, shoutier sex-nouns (Titty! Wiener!) into a template that wants to pretend it's about larger issues of race, class, justice and real-deal eroticism.
Except it's never much concerned with finding out who killed that rotten sheriff. This movie has bigger, hornier fish to fry, like McConaughey's taste for the roughest of rough trade, Kidman peeing on Zac Efron's face, John Cusack and Kidman turning a prison visit into a kind of public theater of masturbation, Efron lounging around in damp tighty-whiteys and Macy Gray, as the family maid who also narrates, mimicking Efron's own self-pleasuring habits. Why? Why not? What are you, a censor? A prude? Someone who pays attention to narrative?
If Daniels is aiming to produce the grodiest, sweatiest, most histrionically sleazy and urine-fascinated rape joke of the year, then he has succeeded, and wildly. If he wanted to make a point about anything else then he's still got time to make a follow up film to cover that ground. And if lurid blood-and-guts camp was his goal, then we'll all come back ten years from now to re-assess the efficacy of that move. And I'm willing to do that, because I enjoy salvaging the joke from the mouth of madness, and maybe that's how long it'll take to truly appreciate this demented pile of hot, steamy garbage. Maybe we'll all laugh about it then. Or maybe it'll still just be a demented pile of hot, steamy garbage, made more sad by the fact that nobody ever properly embraced the comedy lurking under the congealed surface of its tacky audacity.