Tabloid (R)

Documentary 81 July 15, 2011
By J. Hoberman
With the queasily entertaining Tabloid, Errol Morris continues his fascination with the freak show of American life. Morris revels in the grotesque saga of Joyce McKinney, the erstwhile Miss Wyoming who, back in the heyday of Johnny Rotten and Poly Styrene, gave the British tabs another sort of bondage tale with her mad pursuit and alleged abduction of Kirk Anderson, a young London-based missionary for the Mormon Church. Kirk's court testimony made an impression, but the press was even more taken with his alleged abductress. The 28-year-old McKinney vigorously insisted that, rather than the rape Anderson described, their sex had been consensual. Released on bail in advance of the trial scheduled for May 1978, Joyce hobnobbed with pop stars and upstaged Joan Collins at a movie premiere. Then, amid an escalating press war, Joyce jumped bail and, disguised in a sari, fled back home to America. In comparing Tabloid to Kurosawa's Rashomon, the classic example of subjective narrative and a code for unknowable truth, Morris seems to suggest that it is impossible to establish the particulars of the McKinney-Anderson affair. Such presumed unfathomability is ultimately less compelling, though, than the enigma of Joyce's self-created personality. She tells her own story here and doesn't seem delusional—but does she really, truly believe her own explanations? This is the source of the movie's fascination. Joyce's conviction is not only convincing but contagious. So, too, is her elastic sense of reality—a 90-minute immersion in her world is enough to make you question your own.
Errol Morris Joyce McKinney, Jackson Shaw, Peter Tory, Troy Williams, Kent Gavin, Dr. Jin Han Hong IFC Films

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