Acclaimed director Errol Morris is known for making smart and engrossing documentary films. The director’s best works include “The Fog of War” about the nature of modern war, ”The Thin Blue Line,” an investigation into the murder of a policeman, and “Gates of Heaven” about the eccentric patrons of a pet cemetery in California. ”Gates of Heaven” managed to be funny, yet bizarre and honest. Now, with “Tabloid,” about a beauty queen accused of kidnapping her true love, Morris has returned to the playfulness that made “Gates of Heaven” so enthralling.
Meet Joyce McKinney. Joyce was a young lady who’d achieved success in beauty pageants. She even won Miss Wyoming. According to the film, Joyce dreamed of meeting and marrying her prince charming. When she finally did meet him, his name was Kirk Anderson. The two had a romance. Kirk was a mormon. Joyce claims that before the couple had a chance to marry, the Mormons whisked Kirk away from her to England in 1977. Joyce believed that the Mormons were a cult, and that they were brainwashing Kirk. So Joyce did what any other young lady would do: She saved up her money, hired a private detective, a pilot and a couple of body guards then flew to England to get her man back. Once there, Joyce rescued Kirk from a mormon temple, took him to a cottage and chained him to a bed. A few days later, Kirk told police that he had been abducted and raped. The story gets more wild and interesting from there, as tabloid stories often do, but you’ll have to get the juicy details by seeing the movie.
Joyce McKinney is still alive and well, and she participated in the making of “Tabloid.” Her on-camera interviews depict her as likeable, fun, opinionated and spunky, but also eccentric and perhaps a little crazy. Morris said of McKinney in an interview, “I think she’s a great, romantic-slash-tragic heroine. She’s fabulous.”
Morris utilizes McKinney’s own words along with interviews from others, including members of the British tabloid press. (The story was huge and salacious in England at the time.) The director also includes older footage, such as televised press reports and a film of McKinney reading aloud her love story about waiting for her one true love. Morris also makes brilliant use of clippings, headlines and images from the tabloids (as well as on-screen text) to tell his story and to punctuate several sequences. Combine all of this with wonderfully nudging, playful and captivating music by John Kusiak, and you get a film that is as enthralling as it is fun.
At its heart “Tabloid” is the story of an obsessed woman who did some very questionable things (or did she??)–and the notoriety this brings her. It’s also a commentary about “self-fulfilling prophecies” or how one’s outlook on life might actually shape one’s future.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
2010, Not rated, 87 minutes, Documentary