The first rule of making a bad film is realizing that you made a bad film.
The second rule of making a bad film is not blaming anyone else for making a bad film.
Not every film is going to be a home run and no film will every please everyone. I mean, I hear tell that some people will defend Exorcist II: The Heretic as a masterful adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” masquerading as a religious horror movie. I will not confirm or deny who has argued that before. I will just say that the Internet is forever and I’m bound to slip up and do it again where you can find me. Whoops.
Anyway, Lee Daniels isn’t getting love it or hate it reviews for his film The Paperboy. He’s getting “hate it” or “hate it so much you love it” reviews.
Even before the film debuted, writers were ripping him to shreds for leaked footage using dated editing techniques and grainy film stock. The gimmick card was thrown out, same as it was when Precious was released.
Where silence or a statement on the intentional low-budget 1970s quasi-exploit style of The Paperboy could have been good options, Lee Daniels speculates about another option.
His interview with GQ is an interesting read for a number of reasons. One, you see a director experience the absolute extremes of festivals. Huge standing ovation for Precious followed by boos and hatred for The Paperboy. Two, he gives you a look into his process as a director and admits he doesn’t know how to respond to the reaction just yet.
The third is the icky part. He even admits that, too:
I think, too, that, and it’s so politically incorrect to talk about racism—you simply can’t—but I think that if it were Pedro Almodóvar or some Italian director telling the story we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in. I should be doing Precious—urban stories that make sense for me. How dare I step out of my comfort zone and tell a story like this? That’s the way I think it is. But, that’s not my destiny.
He contextualizes the statement throughout the rest of the interview. Too bad we live in a 140 character media zone where the headline becomes “Does not liking The Paperboy mean you’re racist” and not “Lee Daniels calls The Paperboy campy fluff, compares himself to Pedro Almodovar and John Waters.”I can only hope people remember that Lee Daniels admits to creating a super-stylized piece of bizarre entertainment and don’t keep falling back on the quotation about race. That’s blurring the issue.
Daniels admits to making cult film and needs to be evaluated for that. Let’s give him some respect and discuss it in that framework. Whether it’s the next Female Trouble or even Death Proof–another intentional cult/exploit tribute that split critics at Cannes–has yet to be seen.
I just hope he remembers to discuss the film from his work on the film, not his perceptions of the critical undercurrent.
Thoughts? Love to hear them.