Tabloid (US, 2010)

Blast from the past!

Errol Morris makes, what  Bill Nichols calls, ‘participatory documentaries’ where talking head interviews offer a variety of, often contradictory, viewpoints on events. Most famously, with The Thin Blue Line (US, 1988), this led to a man on death row being released as the real murderer, apparently inadvertently ‘fessed up’ whilst being interviewed. The subject of this documentary is nowhere near as serious, the American beauty queen who allegedly kidnapped her Mormon fiance in London and took him to Devon for sex. Pure tabloid fodder, in other words.

I don’t remember the case, from 1977, as tabloids didn’t reside where I lived. However this is an amusing recreation from the reporters involved and, mostly, Joyce McKinney herself. Morris’ brilliance is simply allowing the participants to talk, we occasionally hear him interjecting from behind the camera; we do get a sense of how unhinged McKinney is/was, but it’s more sympathetic than condemnatory.

It’s a reminder, maybe, of a more benign tabloid environment where phone hacking wasn’t ‘as standard’. However, I did feel that maybe Morris would be better looking at the neurosis that Mormonism seems to create; now that is a serious subject.


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