We literally don't know where to start. Nicole Kidman peeing on a semi-conscious Zac Efron? Matthew McConaughey face down in a motel room after being - in no discernible order - shagged, chained and sliced to bloody ribbons? John Cusack as a death-row inmate who does a sex-wee in his trousers?
Nobody drops a baby in Precious director Lee Daniels's Southern pulp-noir drama, but the Cannes crowd weren't short of scenes to gawp at when it screened this morning. Based on the novel by Pete Dexter, The Paperboy takes us to a swamp town in '60s Miami, where Zac Efron helps his journalist brother (Matthew McConaughey) investigate the suspicious murder conviction of a death-row inmate (John Cusack).
Stepping into a role initially meant for Modern Family's busty Latino bimbo Sofia Vergara, Kidman pulls on a peroxide wig and a slutty, nutty strut for a knockout performance that syncs perfectly with the over-the-top weirdness of Daniels's movie.
She lusts after Cusack, Efron lusts after her. Efron gets stung by a jellyfish, she saves his life by 'dousing' his wounds. McConaughey does the most cursory amount of detective work imaginable. His black colleague David Oyelowo and narrator/maid Macy Gray encounter some racism. And 107 minutes later, the credits roll and you ask yourself what the hell just happened.
There's almost no psychology for the characters and just the flimsiest membrane of a story for us. A sweltering atmosphere and a gallery of even more colourful performances, though, make Daniels's film bizarrely easy to watch. He certainly loves ogling Efron's tanned, muscular body - Daniels has him spend as much of the film as possible wearing nothing except tighty whiteys. Amazingly, McConaughey only takes his shirt off once.
As a storyteller, Daniels seems to have almost no idea what he's doing, so he just keeps merrily stringing scenes together - from nasty jolts of violence to black comedy, from Kidman bumping uglies with Cusack's backwater freak to an alligator being gutted in closeup. It's trash: messy, daft and vivid.
Photo gallery - Cannes Film Festival in pictures: