Among the many aspects of Errol Morris’ talent that make him an elite documentary filmmaker is that he finds true stories that aren’t just interesting, but are full of colorful people whom he then gets to open up on camera. Vernon, Florida, Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, and The Fog of War are all quirky examinations of various profound themes and telling psychological sketches of the people who agree to be interviewed on camera. Tabloid stands alongside his best work for this very reason.
The story of beauty queen Joyce McKinney exemplifies the old saying that truth is stranger than fiction. The one-time Miss Wyoming, who claims to have an IQ of 168, became the tabloid sensation of England in 1977 thanks to her being the central figure in a lurid scandal involving sex, kidnapping, religion, and obsession. She traveled to London with a couple of bodyguards and a pilot hoping to get her Mormon boyfriend away from the church, and ended up facing kidnapping charges, as well as having numerous kinky elements of her sex life surface in the press.
If you’ve never heard of Joyce McKinney before, do yourself a favor and don’t go looking her up before seeing this movie -- and do go see the movie, because it’s hard to imagine a more entertaining true-crime tale. McKinney sits for extensive interviews with Morris, and she is a fascinating individual -- articulate, extroverted, and manipulative. In fact, she lays out the theme of the movie late in the film when she states her belief that if you tell a lie for long enough, people will eventually believe it. What she doesn’t seem to realize is that the same is true of the person telling the lie -- you can manipulate yourself by insisting on the same story.
Tabloid isn’t about scandals or gossip, it’s about the manipulation that Joyce describes. From the pilot who, decades later, still gets turned on by the memory of Joyce’s youthful figure and outgoing demeanor, to the tabloid reporter who uncovers juicy secrets in her past, to the central figure herself, everybody in this movie is convinced that his or her point-of-view should be everyone’s.
As Morris slowly reveals more and more about the various stages of Joyce’s life -- including a second run-in with unwanted fame -- it dawns on us that truth doesn’t matter much at all. It’s the storytellers and their stories that fascinate us. Morris not only examines our attraction to the kind of scandal-sheet journalism that people are quick to get all morally righteous about, he also satisfies -- without judging us -- our desire for sensationalism by simultaneously giving us a ceaselessly entertaining portrait of the confounding, fascinating, and quite possibly unknowable Joyce McKinney.
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 2010
- Rating: R
- Review: Among the many aspects of Errol Morris’ talent that make him an elite documentary filmmaker is that he finds true stories that aren’t just interesting, but are full of colorful people whom he then gets to open up on camera. Vernon, Florida, Fast, Cheap & O… (more)