“The Paperboy” has gained a reputation as that movie in which Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron. It’s an understandable reputation considering that Kidman actually does pee on Troy from “High School Musical” in the movie.
But, as has been noted by many critics, that’s only one of the off-kilter things that occurs in this lurid, pulpy, dank film about sex and murder in swampy, ’60s-era Florida, a motion picture that should have been rated CC for cray-cray. It also happens to be a movie that the Post’s Michael O’Sullivan says “sucks the viewer in, like an undertow.”
To be clear: Narratively, this thing is a mess. I am still processing, three days post-screening, exactly what Matthew McConaughey and his colleague, played by David Oyelowo, actually learned from their attempt to clear the name of convicted murderer Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack). But plot is not the point of “The Paperboy.”
The point of “The Paperboy” is to watch big-name actors commit, with every one of their perspiring pores, to roles that require them to do some bizarre, depraved things. The point of “The Paperboy” is to think that Zac Efron can be a convincing actor, and then to sort of forget that when director Lee Daniels shows him in his underwear for the 87th time. The point of “The Paperboy” is to walk out of the theater afterward and say to your movie-going companion, “Geez, that was really weird, wasn’t it?” and then to spend an hour over coffee discussing all the parts that were really, really weird.
Consider this list of the 10 weirdest things in “The Paperboy” a template from which to build that conversation. (Note: If you want to remain spoiler-free, do not continue to read further.)
There is a scene in which McConaughey and Efron go to visit a relative of Cusack’s Van Wetter, a guy who, best as I could tell, guts alligators and seems creepy for a living. His family — some of whom hang around half-naked because apparently that’s what poor people in Florida do, according to this movie — is equally flesh-crawly. The whole thing is like an encounter with Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel meshed with a scene from “The Hills Have Eyes,” but with more alligator innards.
9. The fact that Zac Efron constantly walks around in tighty whities
In summary, Efron is to pants in “The Paperboy” as Taylor Lautner is to shirts in the “Twilight” franchise.
8. Efron gets stung by a jellyfish but still manages to look sultry
Let’s put the urinating scene aside for a moment to focus on the jellyfish sting that leads to that Kidman moment, which, I assure you, is on this list. Before that happens, there’s an underwater montage in which Efron gets stung repeatedly by multiple jellyfish while making horrible, pained expressions. This results in disgusting red swollen welts to break out all over his face and body. Throughout all of these proceedings, he still manages to look extremely attractive.
7. The fact that after all that Efron gratuitousness, Daniels cuts away from the sex scene between him and Kidman
Just as Efron and Kidman are about to consummate their flirtation, Macy Gray — who plays Efron’s housekeeper and serves as the story’s narrator — suddenly says, “That’s enough about that” (or something like that) and the camera abruptly cuts away before we see them do anything even approximating the deed. Which is kind of comical considering all the wack-a-doodle stuff we do get to watch, in great detail, in “The Paperboy.”
6. The hotel scene
Let’s just say that there is a twist involving one of the characters and let’s just further say that it involves some really ugly stuff going down in a hotel room. This is weird, but in a very, very bad way.
5. Nicole Kidman
Kidman is really something to watch in this film. She’s a walking libido, the personification of psychological damage in a short skirt, a sorry soul who, despite being Australian in real life, is all tawdry twang in this movie. She is, in a word, fearless. And she achieves all of this while looking like a hotter, retro version of Tan Mom.
4. John Cusack goes nuts, and also has Nicolas Cage’s hair
As a completely perverse, cold-hearted maniac, Cusack snagged a role that screams “Nicolas Cage should be playing this!” The actor makes the role his own, though. And he does so while sporting a hairstyle that is clearly an homage to Cage, out of respect for the man who inspired the greatest inadvertent e-mail jpeg of all-time, obviously.