the bloggy, bloggy movie review: tabloid edition

Joyce McKinney

From Popcorn & Candy: Manacled Mormons and Androgynous Aliens Edition, July 14, 2011. See this week’s movie roundup here. Also on (ironic definite article alert) The DCist, read my thoughts on Lindsay Rowisnki‘s Transformer Gallery installation Trying to be There (ironic awkward pronoun juxtaposition alert) here.

Tabloid

What it is: Erroll Morris’ latest portrait of an obsessive looks at the strange case of Joyce McKinney, beauty queen — and kidnapper?

Why you want to see it: Miss Wyoming 1971, Joyce McKinney could have had her pick of men. What made her not only choose bumbling Mormon missionary Kirk Anderson, but fly across the pond with a hand-picked team of accomplices to abduct him at fake-gunpoint? Morris told theNew York Times that McKinney was one of his most fascinating interviewees — “if there was an Academy Award for best performance in a documentary, she’d win.”

But Morris’ new film is more than just a lurid story, although sensationalism is part and parcel of a tale in which a former Miss Wyoming ties a Mormon missionary spread-eagled to a bed and reportedly rapes him over the course of three days of, in McKinney’s words, “fun, food, and sex.” This Rashomon for the supermarket aisle is about how we tell stories — not just the tabloids, but all of us. McKinney tells Morris that her training as an actress came in handy during her 1977 trial, and she performs for the camera today as surely and expertly as she performed for the jury thirty years ago. But we get no less a performance from Daily Express gossip columnist Peter Tory, one of the tabloid journalists who originally covered the story.

In the 1970s, rival British tabloids sold conflicting versions of McKinney as small town sweetheart and S&M call girl — neither of which exactly lines up with her own version of the truth. For that reason, she has waged a campaign against the film. But is there such thing as a reliable narrator? Morris uses the visual language of tabloids in the form of contemporary newspaper clippings and of titles and fonts designed to mimic vintage tabloid graphics. Film footage is framed as if on a television screen against vintage wallpaper out of Diane Arbus. In other words, we all frame the truth through our own particular lens, and we are all performers — even Morris. But some of us tell better stories than others. McKinney turned up in the news again a few years ago, but if you don’t recognize the name, I won’t spoil it for you. It just goes to show you that the best storytellers never stop telling stories. Like Joyce McKinney, and Errol Morris.

View the trailer.

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