IFC, 2011, Rated R

Nov 16, 2011 at 9:48 am

Errol Morris makes a welcome return to the kind of quirky subject matter that marked his early documentaries. Closer in tone to his lighthearted 1997 film Fast, Cheap and Out of Control than his recent politically driven films (The Fog of War and Standard Operating Procedure), Tabloid explores the life trajectory of former Miss Wyoming Joyce McKinney. 

If you think you know kooky, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Tested with an IQ of 168, Joyce has obsessive faith in eternal love. This comes face to face with the “Mormon cult” when her Mormon boyfriend Kirk vanishes in 1977. McKinney hires a private detective to locate her missing beau. Then she hires a pilot and two body guards to travel with her to the UK and kidnap Kirk. During three sex-filled days in a cottage in a small town outside London, the couple agree to marry. The British police, however, don’t take so kindly to McKinney’s proclivity for sidestepping legal niceties. On the other hand, they don’t seem to mind the yarn she spins from her mouth like so much cotton candy. 

You’ve never seen a compulsive liar like Joyce McKinney. She will boggle your mind. The “anti-documentary” (as Morris calls it) gets its title from the explosion in the English gutter press that follows McKinney’s story of bondaged love. “Sex in Chains Kidnapper” is the headline for an ongoing series of fiction-filled articles about McKinney that dredges up more scandalous tidbits than peanuts in a box of Cracker Jacks. 

Morris’ inventive use of large graphics to emphasize phrases and words his interview subjects say contributes to the film’s contagious humor. Funny, snarky and filled with grand-scale self-delusion, Tabloid is the most gleefully enjoyable — and, given recent headlines about British tabloids, timely — documentary you’re likely to see this year. Curiously, IFC’s DVD release features nary a special feature. Grade: B+