Daily Archives: September 6, 2011
Legendary documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line, The Fog of War) has always had a knack for telling quirky stories involving quirky real-life interview subjects. From people who taxidermy their dead pets to a capital punishment engineer/Holocaust denier, Morris has a gift for making his subjects comfortably candid, and then the man gets out of the way of a good story. And if nothing else, Tabloid is a juicy story that seems too good to be true. As one journalist says, “It had everything.” In 1977, Joyce McKinney, former Miss Wyoming beauty queen, was charged with kidnapping a Mormon man, who she claimed was her boyfriend and had been brainwashed by church leaders. This kidnapping included handcuffing the man to a bed and “three days of food, fun, and sex.” Taking place in Britain, the sensational “Case of the Manicaled Mormon” fascinated the U.K. and turned McKinney into a prized media figure. When she escaped back to the U.S. posing as a deaf mute with a suitcase full of wigs and disguises, it made her even more famous. British tabloids were in a McKinney arms race, trying to out-scoop the other, unearthing secret lusty bondage pictures. Amazingly, McKinney agreed to appear on camera and tell her story, and boy does this woman speak her mind. Morris does not present McKinney up for easy ridicule. She presents a perky version of events, and it’s easy to feel the pull of this woman who is a natural storyteller. Whether her version of the “truth” is real is another matter. I wish Tabloid had dug a little deeper and had more ambition to it. The nature of tabloid journalism, sensationalism, and the ambiguous nature of truth gets ultimately swept aside by the bizarre twists and turns of the story and the outsized personality of McKinney. Tabloid certainly isn’t close to the best documentaries Morris has fashioned, but it’s a fascinating story that sells itself.
Nate’s Grade: B