Beauty queen, Mormon bogeyman, attention hog, dog-cloning proponent; documentarian Errol Morris now adds Midwest firecracker and tabloid poster-girl Joyce McKinney to his ever-growing gallery of eccentrics. A former Miss Wyoming with a 168 IQ, she made headlines when she traveled to Britain in 1977 to rescue (although others would say to kidnap) the Latter-day Saint love of her life, Kirk Anderson. The gun she had was fake, but the Smith & Wesson handcuffs were very real---and apparently used to shackle the maybe-willing, maybe-not LDS member to the bed of an isolated country cottage for a three-day bout of lovemaking.
Joyce was eventually captured, and the story blew up, to the point that, free on bail, the scandal-sheet starlet upstaged Joan Collins at the premiere of her movie The Stud---surely, Alexis Carrington was not amused. Then things get even more bizarre. The director digs deep into his bewitching bag of tricks to tell McKinney's tale: visually off-kilter talking-head interviews, ironically employed archival clips (funniest is the use of Franco Zeffirelli's period romance Brother Sun, Sister Moon). Yet unlike a great Morris film such as Gates of Heaven or Mr. Death, where the quirks of character feel connected to a larger, profoundly insightful vision of humanity, Tabloid never gets beyond its idiosyncratic surface. Morris too often treats McKinney as a figure of fun, holding on her roiling laugh for cringe-inducing effect, and, at his worst, indulging the woman's grand delusions---such as her oft-stated desire to author a biographical tell-all---like a sleazy rag reporter looking for a scoop. Sadly, this is a master going through the basest of motions.
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