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Tabloid

tabloid-documentary-errol-morris


Though not quite on par with last year’s Exit Through the Gift Shop, Errol Morris’ Tabloid is the perfect antidote to the typical intensity and seriousness among a given year’s crop of non-fiction films. Tabloid doesn’t have high aspirations—it just throws this bizarre and complicated story at you, and let’s you choose what you want to believe. But my goodness, what a wacky and compelling story he gives us.

Tabloid, on the simplest level, is about one very unusual person—Joyce McKinney. A former Miss Wyoming, McKinney became a tabloid sensation after she was accused of kidnapping and raping a Mormon missionary in England during the 1970s. That’s the accuser’s version of the story. McKinney (who gets the lion’s share of the interviews in Tabloid) tells a different version. She details an intensely passionate love with a young Mormon man who suddenly disappeared. Not willing to give up on him, McKinney traces him to England, where he willingly escapes the “cult members” he’s with to a cottage in the countryside. There, they spend three days having wild sex before he tragically goes back to the Mormons, who fabricate this malicious story.

The film is all story. Morris just sits back and lets the involved parties sell us on their version of the events, and I think it’s pretty clear the truth lies somewhere between Joyce’s story and Kirk’s (the missionary, who decided not to participate). Joyce is certainly convincing, but there’s more than enough evidence to show she’s not presenting the whole truth. Really, though, getting to the truth of the story isn’t what Morris is concerned about.

If he comments on anything, it’s the perverse obsession we have with lurid gossip like this. After fleeing England (a pretty damning move, if you ask me), she’s never extradited back. For all intents and purposes, the story could have ended there. Kirk moved on and got married. Joyce attempted to find solace and solitude. But still, people wanted to know more about this odd woman. Hell, so did I. I may not have read the tabloids Joyce claims ruined her life, but I found myself fascinated by her story, nonetheless.

I highly recommend Tabloid, but I’m going to cut this review a little short and leave you with a clip of Joyce onstage with Errol Morris following the screening of Tabloid at DOC NYC in 2010. I think it speaks volumes about Joyce as a person and the film, Tabloid, more broadly. She thinks this story is about her. She’s upset Morris interviewed some of the people he did, and she’s also frustrated he didn’t go after Mormons with a sharper knife. Clearly, she’s completely self-involved, but I think a number of her points about the laughter and pain she had to endure are probably true. Anyway, here she is:

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