I’m not recommending these movies to anyone. One is so sleazy that a hot shower is in order after viewing. The other is amateurish and pretentious. Yet, there is something bold and original about both. If you are an adventurer in your film going and want to witness how much risk some off-the wall creative minds will take for their vision, you may want to see The Paperboy and Arc.
The Paperboy has an all-star cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Macy Gray, Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, John Cusack and Scott Glenn. They all sweat convincingly in the Florida humidity. Efron (clad only in his tighty whities for half the film) and McConaughey (a noted shirtophobe) provide enough male pulchritude to suggest soft porn while Kidman, fully clothed, mimes a sex act so graphically that the scene could qualify for a triple x rating. Some call it “air sex.”
The story is about two ambitious reporters trying to keep a convicted murderer from execution. Kidman excels as the aging vamp drawn to the convict, though she’s never met him. As the reporters attempt to gather the facts about the trial and arrest, Kidman joins the team and inadvertently seduces Efron, the virgin younger brother of one of the reporters. Cusack provides a quiet, dumb menace that reflects, it seems, the character and atmosphere of the film. Lee Daniels (Precious) directed this 2012 film that accumulated awards and accolades as well as considerable criticism.
Arc (2006) cannot boast the cast or the production quality of The Paperboy. One wonders what rookie director Robert Ethan Gunnerson could have done with the resources available to Daniels. Corrupt police, drugs, prostitution of all type and kidnapping form the backdrop for a heroin-addicted young man called “Paris,” played by Peter Facinelli (in his pre-Goth days) as he attempts redemption. The film is an unconventional take on a conventional story. A fundamentally decent guy caught in a dangerous underworld, Paris wants to redeem himself with a noble deed. He decides to find a kidnapped child. With the help of a newly recruited prostitute, he begins his search for the boy. In an attempt to make the film seem higher-minded than it is, the dialogue is filled with out-of-character quotes from famous writers and philosophers. Dialogue courtesy of Bartletts.
It’s impossible not to pay attention to the peculiar, seemingly random, cinematic style. I’m guessing one hand-held camera, using available light, did the job. From time to time we see the film in black and white, then for no apparent reason, in color. A spotlight (or flashlight) is used to follow the actors when natural light isn’t enough, achieving a strange, moody effect.
Both films use the hokey split-screen device. And both leave a lingering, though not necessarily pleasant aftertaste. However, both are provocative. If that’s enough, perhaps they are worth a few hours of your time.
To accompany these hardcore movies, (if you are not driving anywhere) go for the straight stuff— whiskey, gin, etc. — keeping in mind that you’ll be spending some time in a sweaty swamp with mosquitoes, alligators, water snakes and worse, soulless humans.