“The Paperboy” has gained a reputation as that movie in which Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron. It’s an understandable reputation considering that Kidman actually does pee on Troy from “High School Musical” in the movie.
But, as has been noted by many critics, that’s only one of the off-kilter things that occurs in this lurid, pulpy, dank film about sex and murder in swampy, ’60s-era Florida, a motion picture that should have been rated CC for cray-cray. It also happens to be a movie that the Post’s Michael O’Sullivan says “sucks the viewer in, like an undertow.”
To be clear: Narratively, this thing is a mess. I am still processing, three days post-screening, exactly what Matthew McConaughey and his colleague, played by David Oyelowo, actually learned from their attempt to clear the name of convicted murderer Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack). But plot is not the point of “The Paperboy.”
The point of “The Paperboy” is to watch big-name actors commit, with every one of their perspiring pores, to roles that require them to do some bizarre, depraved things. The point of “The Paperboy” is to think that Zac Efron can be a convincing actor, and then to sort of forget that when director Lee Daniels shows him in his underwear for the 87th time. The point of “The Paperboy” is to walk out of the theater afterward and say to your movie-going companion, “Geez, that was really weird, wasn’t it?” and then to spend an hour over coffee discussing all the parts that were really, really weird.
Consider this list of the 10 weirdest things in “The Paperboy” a template from which to build that conversation. (Note: If you want to remain spoiler-free, do not continue to read further.)
10. The dude with the alligators
There is a scene in which McConaughey and Efron go to visit a relative of Cusack’s Van Wetter, a guy who, best as I could tell, guts alligators and seems creepy for a living. His family — some of whom hang around half-naked because apparently that’s what poor people in Florida do, according to this movie — is equally flesh-crawly. The whole thing is like an encounter with Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel meshed with a scene from “The Hills Have Eyes,” but with more alligator innards.
9. The fact that Zac Efron constantly walks around in tighty whities
In summary, Efron is to pants in “The Paperboy” as Taylor Lautner is to shirts in the “Twilight” franchise.
8. Efron gets stung by a jellyfish but still manages to look sultry
Let’s put the urinating scene aside for a moment to focus on the jellyfish sting that leads to that Kidman moment, which, I assure you, is on this list. Before that happens, there’s an underwater montage in which Efron gets stung repeatedly by multiple jellyfish while making horrible, pained expressions. This results in disgusting red swollen welts to break out all over his face and body. Throughout all of these proceedings, he still manages to look extremely attractive.
7. The fact that after all that Efron gratuitousness, Daniels cuts away from the sex scene between him and Kidman
Just as Efron and Kidman are about to consummate their flirtation, Macy Gray — who plays Efron’s housekeeper and serves as the story’s narrator — suddenly says, “That’s enough about that” (or something like that) and the camera abruptly cuts away before we see them do anything even approximating the deed. Which is kind of comical considering all the wack-a-doodle stuff we do get to watch, in great detail, in “The Paperboy.”
6. The hotel scene
Let’s just say that there is a twist involving one of the characters and let’s just further say that it involves some really ugly stuff going down in a hotel room. This is weird, but in a very, very bad way.
5. Nicole Kidman
Kidman is really something to watch in this film. She’s a walking libido, the personification of psychological damage in a short skirt, a sorry soul who, despite being Australian in real life, is all tawdry twang in this movie. She is, in a word, fearless. And she achieves all of this while looking like a hotter, retro version of Tan Mom.
4. John Cusack goes nuts, and also has Nicolas Cage’s hair
As a completely perverse, cold-hearted maniac, Cusack snagged a role that screams “Nicolas Cage should be playing this!” The actor makes the role his own, though. And he does so while sporting a hairstyle that is clearly an homage to Cage, out of respect for the man who inspired the greatest inadvertent e-mail jpeg of all-time, obviously.
3. The ending
Clearly, I am not going to give that away. But know this: It’s scary and bizarre and bloody and then the movie just stops, kind of. And then they play the theme from “The Legend of Boggy Creek” over the credits.
Just kidding about that last part.
2. The peeing scene
Yes, as previously noted, Efron gets stung by a jellyfish. So a bunch of girls huddle around and discuss the fact that someone may have to pee on him to neutralize the toxins entering his body. And then Kidman starts yelling at all of them to shoo because, “If anyone’s going to [pee] on him, it’s gonna be me,” because obviously strangers should never do such a thing. And then we see it happen in an unnecessary close-up. Honestly, yucky as it is, it’s not as weird as I thought it would be. Still weird enough to rank high on this list, mind you, but not quite weird enough for the No. 1 spot. That’s reserved for a special moment that I call . . .
1. When Kidman and Cusack have non-touching sex
During a prison-visit scene, with several people in the room looking extremely uncomfortable, Kidman and Cusack sit several feet away from each other and somehow have telepathic sex that makes both of them climax. Daniels only briefly cuts to a wide shot of this moment, which makes it apparent how completely ridiculous it is for Virginia Woolf and Lloyd Dobler to be moaning and groaning while sitting in chairs and just staring at each other. But that’s “The Paperboy,” y’all, as crazy as a sunburned loon off his meds on a 105-degree day. Or, you know, something like that.