Tabloid, the latest work from famed documentarian Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line, The Fog of War) is a wildly entertaining slice of Americana-Britannia, and proof positive that while truth is stranger than fiction, it is often totally inseperable from it, too.
Tabloid tells the story of Joyce McKinney, a former Miss Wyoming who, in 1977 inexplicably found the apple of her eye in the shuffling, overweight Mormon Kirk Anderson. Sadly for McKinney, Anderson, without warning, embarked to the south of England on a mission of God. With the help of a friend, McKinney tracked Anderson down, and allegedly chained him to a bed for three days to have sex with him. The outcome of this bizarre incident became a cause celebre in the British press, and Morris explores the aftermath in all its mystery, tragedy, seediness and intercontinental chicanery.
Morris has an astonishing subject in McKinney; wide-eyed, charmingly articulate in a down-home Southern way, but also highly emotionally charged, manipulative and clearly, well… a bit mad. She is the centre of the film and never less than fascinating. In one particular sequence shot on home video footage, a young McKinney exhibits a canny grasp of narrative when she effectively (and eerily) predicts her own future in a Boogie Nights-esque reading of her unpublished novel.
Like 2007’s Best Documentary Oscar winner Man on Wire, Tabloid snaps along like a thriller, as a scarcely believable set of supporting characters (including horny pilots, lovestruck silent sidekicks, sleazy hacks and Korean cloning scientists!) and a series of unlikely events conspire to create a vastly entertaining and suspenseful whole. For a deadpan treatise on the slipperiness of veracity in a refreshingly pre-Facebook/Twitter/TMZ age, look no further. Hopefully #Tabloid will be trending come Oscar time, and make up for the travesty of The Thin Blue Line‘s non-nomination in 1988. Don’t miss.
Tabloid screens at the The 54th BFI London Film Festival.