Nicole Kidman Talks ‘Raw And Dangerous’ ‘Paperboy’ At Cannes

Lee Daniels-directed film, also starring Zac Efron and Matthew McConaughey, has met with decidedly mixed reception.
By Kara Warner

Nicole Kidman in "The Paperboy"
Photo: Lee Daniels Entertainment

Much ado is made over the glitz and glamour that surrounds the exotic Cannes Film Festival each year. A lot of what brings so many celebrities and so much attention to the international film fest is its location. Who doesn't want to travel to the sandy shores of the French Riviera for "work"? The other big draw, of course, is the opportunity to see movies of all genres, budgets, origin, etc., many of which can get an early jump into awards-season consideration with positive reviews from the notoriously hard-to-please Cannes audiences.

From the outside looking in, "The Paperboy" is one of the films at the festival that has major awards-buzz potential because of its director, Oscar nominee Lee Daniels ("Precious"), and its cast: Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey and John Cusack. Judging from the initial reactions to the small-town, sexed-up murder mystery, however, the reception has been decidedly mixed.

"Daniels wants to show us realities that other movies don't, and I truly think that he's got the talent and drive to do it. But there's a major downside to that impulse," wrote . "If what happens on screen is in any way odd or exaggerated or, even worse, if it defies common sense, the clang of falseness is going to be deafening.

"The line on this movie in Cannes is the same one that a lot of critics, including me, took on Daniels' 'Shadowboxer': that it's so luridly overripe it's nuts — or, at the very least, high camp," Gleiberman continued. "Certainly, you're going to have that feeling during the scene when Kidman, at the beach, saves Efron from a jellyfish sting by urinating on him — which is an anti-jellyfish home remedy, but the way the scene is shot, I think Daniels had something else in mind. The wrong notes, the extremeness, just piles up from there."

Efron and Kidman spoke to the film's extremes during a press conference Thursday (May 24). "I don't think I was supposed to feel comfortable," Efron said. "It's like life. This character is supposed to be learning the ways of the world, and that can be very uncomfortable. But it's also exciting."

"I'd been looking as an actor for something raw and something dangerous," Kidman said. "I may be uncomfortable watching the movie. But that's my job — it's my job to give over to something, not to censor it, not to put my own judgments of how I feel as Nicole playing the character. I am there to portray a truth."

And no matter the discomfort surrounding the onscreen nudity, sex or the pee scene, Efron said he loved the experience of making the movie.

"I've been in love with her for a long time, since 'Moulin Rouge,' "the actor said of Kidman. "It was the loveliest time in the world for me."

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