Tabloid (2010)

Tabloid (2010) movie poster

director Errol Morris
viewed: 01/13/2012

Documentarian Errol Morris’ latest film, Tabloid, recounts a racy tabloid news story from England from 1977, known popularly as the “Mormon sex in chains” case.  The reality behind the reality is that of Joyce McKinney, a pretty young woman who stalked (from America to England) a young Mormon man, who she and accomplices helped to kidnap, taking him to Surrey, where she chained him to a bed and had sex with him for several days.

Her version of the story suggests that the young Mormon man was somewhat more complicit (or willing) and that all of this was done “for love” against the brainwashing of his church.  The papers had a field day with the material, for obvious reasons…the story had it all.  And it just kept getting better and better.  As for the Mormon fellow, he declined to be interviewed for the movie, and if decades of life tell outside of the limelight say anything about him, he was quite likely the victim of a stalker, a pretty loopy stalker, though possibly a moderately benign one in the grander scheme of things.

McKinney is the main interviewee of the film, telling her version of events in great detail, answering back about nudie pics that surfaced by the press, further stalking issues, and finally, oddly, her return to the limelight as a cloner of her favorite pet dog.   Since the film, McKinney has come out in protest of its portrayal of her.

Unlike some of Morris’ best films, Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (1999) or The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003), Tabloid doesn’t seem to reach some transcendent discourse beyond its core subject.  While there is at the heart a question of “the truth”, a version of reality not unlike the elusive facts (a la Rashômon (1950), in which several accounts of a story depict a missing level of truth while suggesting a greater, less knowable version of truth), it ultimately plays out as a strange, somewhat humorous lurid tale, teasingly made palatable by the “barking mad” but quite charming McKinney.

Still, it’s not at all uninteresting.