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Tabloid - Movie Review - 2011

Profiling Joyce McKinney

About.com Rating 1.5 Star Rating


Tabloid, the latest documentary from acclaimed -- no, revered -- filmmaker Errol Morris, chronicles the public persona of Joyce McKinney, the disturbingly eccentric, attention seeking former Miss Wyoming who was accused of kidnapping and raping her reluctant fiancé, a Mormon, and consequently became an infamous tabloid queen. That was during the 1970s. A later incident that involved the well-publicized cloning of her dog again made her front page fodder. And now, there's Tabloid, which has McKinney in the news yet again. This time, she's protesting what she claims are misrepresentations about her and her activities.

With All Due Respect

It's easy to see why Morris, who is known for his intimate and revealing profiles of famously controversial figures, would find McKinney an intriguing subject. Her take on life is odd in the extreme, but she’s smart and also articulate, and she has no compunctions about speaking out -- or ranting. McKinney's an ideal candidate for Morris' Interrotron interrogations.

However, in interviewing McKinney for Tabloid and presenting her peculiar story, Morris seems to merely dismiss points McKinney underscores and, even worse, never acknowledges that he knows -- and it’s impossible to miss this, even if you’re not as smart and adept as Morris is -- that McKinney is a deeply disturbed -- no, delusional -- human being, a woman who's out of control. Yet, she's mercilessly encouraged to spin on, making statements that don't make sense.

Documentary filmmakers aren't responsible for saving their subjects from themselves, but the best profiles show some compassion and an attitude of considerate restraint. That those qualities are lacking in Tabloid renders the documentary an arrogant, obscene, inexcusable example of tabloid exploitation.

Morris’ choice of title, Tabloid, may be ripe with ironic intent, but the film is what it is.

Morris’ exploitation of McKinney has continued off screen, too. There was a well documented confrontation at the film's DOC NYC premiere between a complaining Joyce and condescending Errol. And, in the marketing of the film, McKinney's behavior is hyped she's made to resemble a circus sideshow freak.

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Film Details:

  • Title: Tabloid
  • Director: Errol Morris
  • Release Date: July 15, 2011
  • Running Time: 81 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English
  • Production Company: Moxie Pictures
  • Distribution Company: Sundance Selects
  • Official Site

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