Errol Morris has been touted by critics way cooler than I as one of the best documentarian of all time and I have to begrudgingly agree. He tells stories that are attention grabbing, intense and moving. The foundation of these stories are the interviews he gets from his subjects. Being able to get Robert S. McNamara to talk at length about his involvement in Vietnam is no easy task. But Mr. Norris isn’t just interested in the effects of war or politics. He just wants an intriguing story and an intriguing interview. He got both with his most recent film, Tabloid.
Tabloid tells the story of Joyce McKinney, a former beauty queen, who travels to Britain and gets involved with a kidnapping and bondage story ripe for the British tabloids circuit. the tabloid system is even more harsh in Britain than it is in the good ole United States. They will stop at nothing to uncover the salacious details of a crazy story and boy is Ms. McKinney’s story crazy. She travels to Britain after learning her fiance has joined a Mormon mission there. She tracks him down and invites him into her car. Then she takes him to a cabin for a weekend of kinky sex that involved bondage (McKinney insists it as innocent bondage used to free up his inhibitions. The papers allege it was something more sinister.). He then runs off and rejoins the Mormon mission and files charges against Ms. McKinney saying that he was kidnapped by her. She is taken to jail where she drops a letter to the newspapers telling her story and her innocence. This prompts a media circus and makes her a celebrity over night.
Ms. McKinney presents her story as a love gained and then lost. The papers present her story as a sex maniac with a history of fetishism. So what is the truth? Mr. Morris is not completely worried about discovering the unequivocal truth. He is more worried about showing the charisma of Ms. McKinney and the ruthlessness of the reporters. This film came out around the time that scandal was erupting in Britain with Rupert Murdoch and his News International phone hacking schemes. Whether that juxtaposition was intentional or not, Mr. Morris is able to capture a concrete example of a scandal and make this theoretical issue into a real one. Was it right for those reporters to dig through Ms. McKinney’s personal effects or track down people she used to be involved with? Or was it all just a part of the game? It is up for you to decide.