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Review: The Paperboy

By ANN LEWINSON  |  October 11, 2012
2.5 2.5 Stars

A Russ Meyer roughie meets The Help in Lee Daniels's lurid follow-up to Precious, in which a paperboy (Zac Efron) gets promoted to driver when his brother Wade (Matthew McConaughey), a Miami Times investigative reporter, returns home to exonerate a convicted killer (John Cusack). His bait: a death row groupie (Nicole Kidman) with whom little brother falls madly in lust, although she's 20 years his senior. Daniels colorizes Pete Dexter's novel, reassigning the title character's narration to the family maid (Macy Gray), making Wade's writing partner (David Oyelowo) black, and shoehorning in as much casual racism as the '60s-set story will allow. Kidman goes for broke in a performance that is alternately affecting and cringe-inducing, while McConaughey recedes and Cusack is miscast. Efron can't be helped, but Daniels works wonders with non-actors; Gray's scenes give the movie an emotional center this not-quite-camp-classic needs.

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