TABLOID

After watching Tabloid, you wonder why it took so long for someone to make a film about Joyce McKinney. Her fascinating, stranger-than-fiction life story aside, she just blooms in front of the camera without giving off the pretense of putting on a show. A natural storyteller dripping with southern charm, she’s immensely likable even when she comes off as delusional, a chatterbox, a gossip or an all-out nutjob.

An ex-beauty queen with an I.Q. of (supposedly) 160, she became tabloid fodder in late ’70s England after being accused of tracking down her estranged boyfriend (a Mormon), kidnapping him, shackling him to a bed and raping him. McKinney’s account dominates, but we additionally hear from not only one of her accomplices, but also a UK tabloid that bought her tale and a competing tabloid that pieced together a contradictory story. In the end, what actually happened is likely somewhere in between all of these versions (Mark Lipson, the film’s co-producer refers to it as a “Looney Tunes Rashomon“). I didn’t fully believe McKinney’s take but I couldn’t entirely discredit her either, and the film gets much of its philosophical weight and entertainment value out of this conundrum.

Actually, we do see a few film clips of McKinney from not long after the scandal, but it’s a blatant vanity piece as she appears on horseback, the camera lens smeared with vaseline while she attempts to tell (waves her hair) “my story”. Thankfully, Errol Morris is absolutely the right filmmaker for the job. Returning to the type of quirky human interest studies he all but abandoned over the past decade, he playfully but shrewdly peppers the screen with word graphics (one of the best is “spread eagled”) to satirize and enhance the story’s sensational nature.

In a way, McKinney could be Morris’ quintessential subject: an eccentric but driven individual whose take on human nature is decidedly different but not necessarily destructive. Morris also has a wealth of material to draw upon, for not only does he present and dissect the case of the “manacled Mormon”, as an added treat, he shows us what McKinney’s been up to recently. Let’s just say it has made her tabloid fodder once again, and it ends Tabloid on a giddy, gleefully over-the-top high note.

Score (out of 10): 10

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: