Thursday, July 21, 2011

Errol Morris' 'Tabloid,' a real page turner

Joyce McKinney holds the screen in a documentary that's as loopy as it is lurid.
Say this about Errol Morris: The man knows how to keep an audience involved, even when he's just filming talking heads. In his new documentary, Tabloid, Morris finds another fascinating and entirely offbeat subject. Tabloid tells the story of a woman who, in the 1970s, found herself at the center of a pumped-up tabloid scandal in Great Britain.

Although Morris couldn't have foreseen the turmoil that has sprung from the current Murdoch affair, he has made a movie about obsessive love that also serves as a fine introduction to the lurid appetites of British tabloids.

Morris introduces us to Joyce McKinney, a woman who's now in her 60s. When Joyce was a young blonde bombshell, she was accused of kidnapping and raping her Mormon boyfriend, a young man who was on a Mormon mission in England. McKinney, who claims that the so-called "manacled Mormon" was the love of her life, insists that she was trying to rescue the lad from the clutches of a mind-controlling cult.

Kirk Anderson, the alleged kidnapping victim, declined to be interviewed by Morris, who compensates with an extensive helping of McKinney. She comes off as lively, candid and loopy. He also talks with reporters from warring British tabloids and an ex-Mormon who fills in blanks about Mormon beliefs.

I can't say that Tabloid ranks with Morris' best work, movies such as The Thin Blue Line, A Brief History of Time and The Fog of War, but it offers its share of tabloid fun as it whips through a story that touches on pornography, prostitution, bondage and (ready for this?) dog cloning.

Yes, Tabloid can be amusing, but as I reflected back on the movie, I realized something about the power of obsession and how it can distort an entire life. But don't tell that to McKinney: Amazingly, she seems pretty comfortable with her whole whacked-out story.

1 comment:

theoncominghope said...

I'm so glad to have finally seen this crazy movie! Joyce McKinney feels like a character that's come from the pages of science fiction.

It's the first Errol Morris documentary I've seen, and I'll certainly be seeking out more.

My thoughts are here, if you're interested: