Tabloid/2010/IFC Films/88 min.
Celluloid femmes fatales, though they may lack morals and dabble in deadly sins, are nevertheless pretty easy to like. They have brains, beauty, ambition and style. And it’s just a movie, a 90-minute diversion from reality.
In the real world, however, manipulative, self-absorbed and conniving narcissists typically don’t receive our admiration; if they’re lucky, they might get our compassion. That’s the case with Joyce McKinney, the subject of the latest film from Errol Morris, one of America’s greatest documentarians. It’s a story that’s funny, frenzied and nothing short of astounding.
I was part of a roundtable interview with Morris last Friday and learned more about the film. About three years ago, browsing through the Boston Globe, Morris happened to see a wire story about McKinney, who made headlines most recently for having her dog cloned in South Korea. The story also noted that 30 years before, McKinney had been a front-page fixture in the British tabloids.
Why? Oh, she just wanted her man back. McKinney, a former beauty queen, fell head-over-heels in love with a clean-cut guy named Kirk Anderson. They had discussed marriage and even what to name their kids, McKinney says. But Anderson was (and apparently still is – he refused to be interviewed) a Mormon and was assigned to a mission in England.
According to a 2008 report in London’s Sunday Times: In 1977, the former Miss Wyoming stalked her lover, a Mormon missionary, to a tabernacle in East Ewell, Surrey, allegedly kidnapped him and held him in a cottage in Devon. There, the 17-stone [238 pounds] Kirk Anderson claimed, his petite, busty admirer tied him to a bed using mink-trimmed handcuffs, slipped into a see-through nightie and forced him into sex. At a remand hearing she declared her love for the Mormon with the immortal line: “I’d ski naked down Mount Everest with a carnation up my nose if he asked me.”
Once the story broke, Fleet Street journalists had a field day and McKinney’s bizarre mission was prime Page-One fodder. “Joyce’s story had all the qualities of a crazy B-movie,” says producer Mark Lipson.
Fast forward to today to a McKinney who did not move on. She didn’t particularly want to. “I think she’s an amazing romantic heroine,” says Morris. “She’s this incredibly romantic soul – an absurdist, romantic figure pursuing some quixotic, hopeless love or the idea of love. She’s remarkable as a person who refuses to give up.”
Morris also likes “Tabloid”’s element of film noir. “I love film noir. … People don’t really have control over their lives in noir. They’re part of some infernal tapestry of design. There’s a sense of inexorability and there’s a sense of inexorability in this story.”
“Tabloid” opens July 15 in Los Angeles and New York.