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Tabloid Movie Review

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Review by Nathan Samdahl (B)

Errol Morris does it again.  Continuing in his tradition of finding and exploring wacky out-of-this-this-world personalities, Morris turns his attention here to the Lindsay Lohan of thirty years ago.  A woman named Joyce McKinney, who captured the attention of the paparazzi - and the world.

Her story is one that I can't really do justice to here.  There are just too many bizarre twists and turns.  But in a nutshell, after Joyce McKinney's love attraction is whisked away to serve his Mormon mission in the UK, Joyce decides to go on a crazy whirlwind ride to get him back. 

Thinking he has just disappeared, she hires a P.I. to track him down and then hires an assortment of characters, including a bodyguard from Gold's Gym and a professional pilot, to travel to London to bring him back stateside.  Once there, an utterly bizarre sequence of events occurs, which includes kidnapping, a three-day bondage-type sexual encounter at a small cottage and much more.  Joyce is arrested, flees the country, assumes a new persona and that's just the beginning.

And I forgot to mention the cloned puppies.  This is the kind of story that the best Hollywood screenwriter could never conceive.

Errol Morris is able to track down the woman herself, so much of the story is told in Joyce's voice.  Other interviews include some of her accomplices in her mission.  Her Mormon love obsession, Kirk Anderson, refused to be interviewed.  And yes, the geneticist that clones her puppies is also in there.

The movie is very much an exploration of the mania that can result when tabloids and everyone else pounce and take control of a story.  Hearing the "truth" from Joyce and a very different one from the tabloids makes it clear that the real truth lies somewhere in the very murky middle. 

Much as News of the World is going down in a ball of flames for their criminal practices, the tabloids featured here resorted to many of the same methods, including aiding and abetting criminals (in this case, meeting with Joyce while she was on the run), doctoring photos and much more.

The only drawback to the film is that despite its outrageous narrative, the film is presented in a very straightforward fashion, predominantly told only through interviews.  While this style helps cut through the bullshit by bringing it more back down to earth, had the craziness of the story been more closely mirrored in its storytelling, Tabloid could have been better. 

Otherwise, this is one of those great stories that many people - especially young people - have no idea even existed.  While it's certainly not Morris' best documentary, he is a master with this material, and it's hard to disappoint when retelling the life of the Joyce McKinney and the Case of the Manacled Mormon.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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