Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Tabloid" Is Ripped From Yesterday's Headlines.


By Steven Rosen

Even though Errol Morris’ best-known documentary, Oscar-winner The Fog of War, was about one of the most important men of modern American times – Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense when the Vietnam War started – the director has always shown a penchant for films about offbeat, colorful characters whose life stories are more weird than profound.

He’s returned to that predilection with Tabloid, the bizarre story of an American beauty queen – Joyce McKinney – who in the 1970s chased her runaway Mormon boyfriend to England, where she kidnapped him, manacled him to a bed, and had her sexual way with him. The story was a huge tabloid sensation in England; she eventually did some jail time and disappeared from the public eye.

Until a couple years ago, that is, when she went to South Korea to clone her beloved dog. Morris loves vividly expressive, emotional interview subjects; his camera studies their faces as Rembrandt would when doing a portrait.

And has he ever got a live wire in McKinney! She is so charming, naughtily flirty yet defiantly defensive today about all her actions. But she wears out her welcome, as does our interest in her 15-minutes-of-fame story, well before the film is over. It becomes pretty clear she’s an unreliable witness, and the film grows tedious since her kidnap subject – still alive – doesn’t participate in the film.

Morris’ attempt to broaden the subject matter to investigate Britain’s tabloid culture is a good call – British tabloid journalists also make colorful on-camera interview subjects – but compared to the revelations now sweeping that country about Rupert Murdoch’s corrupt tabloid empire, this is pretty minor stuff.

Since cooperating with Morris, by the way, McKinney has turned against the film and been vociferously complaining about how it makes her look.

Grade: B-

(From Cincinnati CityBeat, 8-31-11)

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