About thirty minutes into Spike Lee’s THE PAPERBOY, Jack Jensen, a young 20 year old, and Charlotte Bless, an oversexed housewife, are at the beach. Jack is reading Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” and Charlotte poking fun, asking him if he wants a blowjob from her
Hurt, annoyed, and rejected, Jack jumps into the ocean where a jellyfish stings him. (Apparently, you don’t need a vertebrate to be attracted to Zac Efron.) A group of beachgoers see Jack in pain, and they ready themselves to pee on him. Charlotte comes running down, shouting indignantly and possessively, “If anyone’s gonna pee on him, it’s gonna be me.”
It was in that moment when I realized I loved THE PAPERBOY, no matter how strange, trashy, campy, weird, and incoherent it was. I honestly couldn’t tell what kind of movie it was. Was it a crime thriller, taking place in the South, revolving around a terrifying John Cusack? Was it a social commentary on race and homosexuality, featuring Yardley (David Oyelowo), a black man pretending to be British, and his journalistic partner, gay Ward Jensen (Matthew McConaughey)? Was it a campy erotic drama about Charlotte Bless, played with aplomb by Nicole Kidman? Or was it the coming of age tale of Jack Jensen, played tenderly and beautifully by Zac Efron? And what about Anita, the Jensen’s household maid and narrator of this movie, (played subtly by the surprising Macy Gray); what does she have to do with all these different stories?
Let’s skip to the chase and rave about Nicole Kidman, shall we?
Nicole Kidman’s Charlotte Bless was trashtastic in every sense of that (made-up) word: oversexed, desperately yearning for a husband, hot-blooded, a mess of mascara and tall hair. There was no hint of Nicole Kidman’s usual mannerisms and “acting” in this role; it was such a balls to the wall tour de force performance. SO GOOD.
Perhaps her greatest feat in the film (besides making peeing on Zac Efron an endearing and almost…heartwarming moment) was when she engaged in “telepathic” sex with John Cusack, while three others watched her. Her abandon and desire in that scene sizzled, and she sold those moments with everything she had. It was orgasmic and disturbing and electrifying.
There were so many moments where Nicole Kidman just kept on surprising you. When she lounged in Jack’s car, talking about sex, her head out the window, her feet on the dashboard; her reaction when Cusack berated her for not wearing a dress – the list goes on and on.
THE PAPERBOY is probably one of Nicole Kidman’s best performances in recent memory. (It was leagues better than HEMINGWAY AND GELLHORN, that’s for sure.) I just hope she keeps picking roles like that are this bold and fascinating.
I just hope Oscar doesn’t forget her performance. It deserves some recognition.