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USA 2011
Directed by
Errol Morris
87 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
4 stars


Synopsis: The “truth is stranger than fiction” story of Joyce McKinney, who kidnapped her Mormon ex-boyfriend, strapped him to a bed and held him for several days before being arrested.

It’s been a while since Errol Morris has made an off-the-wall film about a completely bizarre subject. His more recent films have been eminently sensible and intelligent films about war and military abuses. Thank God he’s decided to do something odd again, because Tabloid is a wonderfully-made film about some incredibly weird goings-on.

Joyce McKinney is an incredible subject for a documentary. A former Miss Wyoming, she fell in love with a Mormon guy named Kirk. He suddenly disappeared on her, resurfacing in the UK. Depending on who you ask, he either left to perform his missionary service, or he was abducted by his cult to keep him away from Joyce. Joyce hired a private detective to find him, and finding him, gathered a few mercenaries and went and abducted him. The story is full of twists and turns, he said and she said assertions, peppered with the recollections of the tabloid journalists who covered the events at the time. Their confessions are equally startling, as they flew to America to dig up more and more dirt on the girl who was on the front cover of every tabloid. They wanted to keep the story going, so they uncovered staggering amounts of dirt on the woman who both embraced notoriety and declaimed noisily against the accusations about her character.

There’s a structural flaw in the film however, as it shifts from the abduction story to Joyce’s second brush with fame as the first person to have her dog cloned. The pacing suffers, and what feels like a conclusion is awkwardly jump-started into a mid-point. But the story is equally weird, and the film picks up pace again as the tabloid papers lap it up, and when they realize who it is, they’re even more excited.

Morris has made an incredibly funny documentary about journalistic ethics and the tragedies of some people’s existence. But he can’t escape being tarred with the same brush as everyone else who has exploited Joyce’s life for their own journalistic benefit. Much as I laughed throughout the film, I felt dirty at the end. Real people are involved in the ludicrous situations discussed, and Kirk’s refusal to participate in the documentary speaks volumes about exactly how questionable exploitative the whole thing is. Tabloid is a brilliant and entertaining film, but you’re gonna feel tainted all the same.




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