It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
This news confirms something we have all suspected for quite some time: Tina Fey is an all-powerful being who has the ability to bring people back from the dead. After you spend a few seconds nodding in unsurprised agreement, I suggest you keep reading for an explanation.
Fans of 30 Rock will recall a pretty significant plotline last season that involved Jack Donaghy's (Alec Baldwin) new wife Avery (Elizabeth Banks) being kidnapped by Kim Jong-il (Margaret Cho) while reporting overseas in North Korea. The dictator forced Avery into a position as the lead newsanchor on the nation's top news program, and, more horrifically, into marriage with his youngest son, Kim Jong-un.
Fans of current events, on the other hand, will likely recall Kim Jong-il's sudden death in December, as well as the acceptance of the North Korean Supreme Leader position by Kim Jong-un. Aside from being pretty significant in the real world, fans have suspected that this might cause quite a scramble in the 30 Rock writers room, as the show is set to return to NBC on Jan. 17.
Fey's co-showrunner Robert Carlock has been vocal about the situation. Carlock explained that several upcoming episodes were written and produced prior to the announcement of Jong-il's death, so there will be no mention of this significant event. However, Carlock explained to The Hollywood Reporter that this will not necessarily form a conflict with the reality: "We realized that, luckily, we hadn't referred to King Jong Il by name yet -- just to North Korea in general...We can't go back and address the changes there, but the fun puzzle is turning around and trying to figure out how to get her out of there and how to continue things."
However, the really interesting news (in particular 30 Rock style) is that the 30 Rock writers aren't necessarily going to kill off Kim Jong-il. A combination of their apparent fondness for Cho's performance and the opportunity for crazy storylines might encourage the series to keep Cho on as the character. Carlock explains: "Maybe we'll have to have Margaret Cho showing up again having faked her death...because she wants to get a gig on a morning talk show."
Nothing is solidified yet. Hopefully, for the sake of the Donaghy family, Avery will be released from the grips of the North Korean dictatorship soon. If Jack can deceive the American White House with a "gay bomb," round up every celebrity imaginable to get a kidney for his secular humanist biological father Milton Greene (Alan Alda), and, as he claims, be the true author of the song "You're So Vain," then he can probably take out an entire country's government.