Pete Dexter’s Great Novel “The Paperboy” Now Coming Out as a Film, Starring Nicole Kidman, No Less, As a Skanky Prison Wife

So I just stumbled across this little gem of good news: Pete Dexter’s knockout novel The Paperboy (1995) has been made into a film, which is about to be shown at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival, starring Nicole Kidman, among others. You can read more news about it in The Daily Mail (you know I’m slumming when I read that), here. I think of Pete Dexter as one of our great contemporary novelists, and somewhat underrated—not totally underrated, as he did win a National Book Award for Paris Trout (1988), but he is something of a cult favorite, a kind of writer’s (popular) writer. As I’ve written before on this blog (I wrote about his novel Spooner when it came out three years ago), his best novels are Deadwood (truly a masterpiece revisionist Western) and Paris Trout. I’d rank The Paperboy as No. 3 in his hierarchy of knockout novels. A few years back I heard that Pedro Almodovar had flirted with directing a movie adaption of it: Now apparently Lee Daniels has directed it, with Almodovar as producer.

It’s also starring Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, and John Cusack, but who cares? Once the movie hits theaters, everyone’s going to be talking about Nicole Kidman as the skank. It’s truly a weird story: A woman obsessed with a convicted murderer (Cusack’s character) contacts two newspapermen brothers to try to exonerate him (McConaughey and Efron), flirts with the two, manipulates them with her charm and their sense of justice, and ultimately the killer gets out of jail. I won’t reveal the ending, but the story ends tragically. (Of course Hollywood might change that.) It’s all about sin and redemption and flirting with sexual debauchery/badness, about crossing the line into destruction. My prediction: This may well be Nicole Kidman’s best role since playing the murderous wife in Gus Van Sant’s great film To Die For (1995).

About williamjcobb

William J. Cobb is a novelist, essayist, and short fiction writer whose work has been published in The New Yorker, The Mississippi Review, The Antioch Review, and many others. He’s the author of two novels—The Fire Eaters (W.W. Norton 1994) and Goodnight, Texas (Unbridled 2006)—and a book of stories, The White Tattoo (Ohio State UP 2002). He has reviewed books for the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, and the New York Times. He lives in Pennsylvania and Colorado. He may be contacted at
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