Would anyone be willing to stand with me when I declare The Paperboy to be the best thing Lee Daniels has done? The movie is undeniably crazy, out-of-control, off-centre, you name it. But, it’s this very tendency for excessiveness and divergent tones that makes it such a fine representation of Daniels’ skills as a filmmaker. The Paperboy, from its most hilarious moments to its most obscene, is completely a Lee Daniels in the best way possible. It has as many important things to say about race and social constructs in its era as much as Precious or The Butler but uses pulp, the ridiculous and even the improbable to tell its story. Sometimes with pit-stops at randomness for the hell of it.
Case in point, this evening’s shower about midway through the film. Important moment of character development, or just a chance for a fun, rainy dance with Zac Efron in underpants? You decide.
I now Nathaniel is one of a small but staunch group who recognise Kidman’s stellar work here. She's excellent as Charlotte Bless. But Zac Efron’s work has been so oddly maligned. Everyone shines a less brightly than Kidman (and Macy Gray, MVP runnerup) but it's hard to fault Zac's turn. He’s doing a fine (albeit easy) job of being audience surrogate – for who has not been infatuted with Nicole Kidman once upon a time?
Jack: "Did you sleep with Yardley?"
Charlotte: "You know, people like Yardley, you just-- got to get him on your side. You know what I mean?"
Jack: "You fucked him for that?"
Charlotte: "Fucking a man is the most natural thing in the world, Jack."
With Charlotte Bless’ easy sexual energy, this is probably the loosest character Nicole’s played since 2001 and it's so great to see her giving a great performance and having fun while doing so. Up until Charlotte's final moments at least. She's at her easiest opposite Jack making their unlikely attraction work, if not quite as a true romantic pairing, as a meeting of two people who work well together.
I kinda like it out here.
The scene seems less like one which fills any narrative quota in the plot and more of a chance to just watch Zach and Nicole write around while wet.
And, really, who can complain about that?
This is not me apologising, you dig? I just don't like to see you sad.
Consider this Lee Daniels' own meta-reference on where the film has been going so far. Things have gotten particularly dour, so he's just lifting our spirits. Like Charlotte he doesn't like to see us sad. A random rain dance solves that problem.
That Lee Daniels knows just what he’s doing.