The greatest stories are the ones that are close to reality so they are relatable. In order to be relatable, most stories play with conventions that can apply to the most amounts of people. However, the real stories—the ones that happen to regular people—are often random, unexpected, and often irrational.
To call Joyce McKinney a regular person is a wild exaggeration, but the point still stands. If “Tabloid” was presented as a fictional narrative, nobody would ever believe this could ever happen.
Yet, it did. This wild and crazy story happened and everyone involved is overjoyed to tell it. The trailer for “Tabloid” is impressive because it only gives the tip of the iceberg. Staying within its restraints, this movie is about McKinney who flew to London to save/kidnap her Mormon fiancée and forced him to have sex with her.
The reason Errol Morris is such a great storyteller is because he lets them tell their story. The takes are longer than a typical documentary interview. There are so many different interpretations of the “truth” about Joyce McKinney even down to whether the “Sex in Chains” story actually contained rope. Morris interjects with title cards and ironic juxtaposition, but that is never to create favoritism towards anyone’s story. It’s just to laugh at the absurdity of it all about the barking mad woman and the men who were obsessed her.
In 87 minutes, there isn’t enough time to get comfortable. The second one thing is explained, the story darts into crazier territory. This isn’t a morality tale about bad decisions or even a criticism against media. This is a celebration of the absurd. Every time the tabloid papers pressed, the more insane it became. They didn’t even have to do much because McKinney would throw herself into the spotlight more than they would. Even though her way of “avoiding” the spotlights drew even more attention.
Thanks to the surrealism, this is actually the funniest movie of the year. All of R-rated romps and romantic “will they or won’t they” cann’t match up to the twists and turns of this. It’s not as dense at some of Morris’s other work, because this isn’t about rising up for activism. It’s about being able to enjoy that sometimes insanity will win over logical expectations. This joins “Man on Wire”, “Sex on the Beach” and “The King of Kong” as some of the best real life finds.
I hope this isn’t a generational thing and not everyone knows about Joyce McKinney and the “Maniacal Mormon”. For this is a life that only gets weirder.