July 25, 2011 2 Comments

What would  you say about a 28 year old ex-Miss Wyoming who falls so madly in love with a 20 year old Mormon boy that she follows him to England, kidnaps him, chains him to a bed to have three days of sex with him and is ultimately arrested and tried, claiming all the while it was absolutely consensual?…who escapes the UK  by wearing a wig and feigning deafness?… Famed documentarian Errol Morris (best known for  “Gates of Heaven”, “The Thin Blue Line” and  “Fog of  War”)  has a lot to say in his newest documentary “Tabloid.”   What will you say after   Morris  introduces us to Joyce McKinney and lets her tell her version of  ” The Case of the Manacled Mormon” which rocked the press in the 1970’s?  (It would be hard to top this story  for sheer weirdness even in the heard it all times of 2011).  Joyce  continues to proclaim her innocence as well as her victimization by the tabloid press AND  her undying love for her Mormon lad.  Morris seems sympathetic to his protagonist.  Although he does not directly  challenge Joyce’s version of her story, he does allow many of the inconsistencies “into the record” via interviews with other participants.  The tone is kept playful with Morris’s insertion of  old movie clips and stylistic words that flash across the screen and remind us of the tabloid nature of the film itself. This, of course, adds to the movie’s appeal and entertainment value, but is the film really as light hearted as it seems?   Many reviewers have already identified a “Rashamon-esque”  quality to this odd story:  the  futility of trying to ascertain what REALLY happened.  Even Joyce , while proclaiming her innocence, acknowledges that  “if you tell a lie long enough you learn to believe it.”  So, perhaps it doesn’t really matter what the “truth” of the matter really was.  This seems to be Morris’s point.  However, I think there is a darker side to Joyce’s story  reflected in the unacknowledged repercussions of decades  mental illness which I would characterize as manic, psychotic behaviour (which although obviously infectious was destructive), delusional thinking , impulsivity, decades of agarophobia and lack of meaningful relationships, suicide attempts and a lack of self reflective thinking and treatment that doomed her to a life with her cloned dogs and little else…this is less entertaining and ignored for the most part by the filmmaker (someone does refer to her as crazy)……I’m not sure that I agree that Morris was purely sympathetic to his subject.  Perhaps he exploited Joyce McKinnen (who also exploited many others) in his own tabloid-like way.  This may be a bit harsh, but I was left wondering if he was laughing with her or at her.  Which was I being asked to do?  Either way, this is certainly a “must see” movie…whether you choose to see it in disguise or with a Mormon friend is up to you..but see it……..Jolyn Wagner

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2 Comments to “Tabloid”
  1. Marc Rosen says:

    I found it deeply disquieting. While Joyce was superficially amusing and engaging, Morris didn’t need to do much short of editing to bring the viewer close to her madness. While her mania was evident, as was her delusional thinking, I felt uneasy listening to her compelling stories that superficially were convincing but left my head spinning, knowing she was mad.

  2. Jolyn Welsh Wagner says:

    I really agree with you….I felt queasy watching her manic explanations and descriptions of her suicidal behavior crosscut with cutesy graphics(remember the mocking of her because she couldn’t recall the word ‘minibar?)..then wondering if I was being a fuddy-dud and missing something, but I don’t think so…..

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