TABLOID. Documentary by Errol Morris. 88 minutes. Rated M (Sexual references).
Another documentary from Errol Morris who explored police issues in The Thin Blue Line, Robert McNamara’s political advice in The Fog of War and torture in Abu Greb in S.O.P. (Standard Operating Procedure). This time his touch is light. He is exploring a tabloid story which reminds us that truth can be stranger than fiction. He has his tongue in his cheek with interviews and employs tabloid and pop TV visuals to illustrate his cheerfully preposterous story of former Miss Wyoming, Joyce McKinney.
In the 1970s, Joyce McKinney was obsessed with, says she was in love with, Mormon Kirk Anderson. He claimed he went to England to escape her. She rounded up a strong man, KJ, and hires a pilot, Jackson Shaw, to take her to London where she virtually abducts Kirk and is alleged to have used him as a sex slave. The London tabloids, principally the Daily Express, got hold of the story and had no qualms in exploiting it, with the Daily Mirror sending a photographer to the US to track down Joyce’s friends and associates and discovering a cache of sex photos (which Joyce claimed were doctored). However, the evidence seems to show that she was available and advertised for sex. There is some footage from Joyce when young, telling a fairy story and hoping it has a happy ending.
But, what makes the film so engrossing (and funny) is that it is principally an interview with Joyce thirty years later, a buxom middle-aged woman, ebullient and not hesitating in being forthcoming about herself, explaining and justifying herself. But, can we believe her? She obviously believes herself but may have become so involved with the fictional side of what she did and what happened to her that much of her interview could be taken with a grain of salt.
Morris has some other interviews which contradict Joyce’s story at times. KJ died in 2004, so is not in the film. Kirk Anderson (who is seen in home movies and photos) refused to participate in the film. But, the pilot is there. The Daily Mirror photographer is there – probably giving a lot of the truth but showing himself as a real tabloid personality . A Mormon DJ is also interviewed offering info about Mormon customs which may surprise some viewers (especially about the Mormon undergarments). Finally, a British Daily Express journalist is interviewed who brings some ironic objectivity to the whole story.
Since all these interviews are intercut throughout the whole film, it makes for continually interesting shifts of points of view.
In recent years, Joyce contacted a cloning scientist in Korea (he is interviewed too) about her dying dog – with the result that she now has five cloned puppies!
A tabloid life!
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out November 17 2011.