Hewlett native and Oscar-winner Errol Morris is drawn to the strange and the quirky. Sometimes, his obsession leads to a great revelation, as it did in his acclaimed documentary, “The Thin Blue Line.” There, a chance encounter with a Texas Death Row inmate resulted in his escape from execution and final release. Morris also scored a bull’s eye and an Academy Award with his in-depth interview with former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara in ‘The Fog of War,” as he struggles to explain his failed “architecture” of the Vietnam War. “Tabloid” is something different. The object of the Morris microscope is Joyce McKinney, a self-absorbed aging Southern Belle, once convicted of kidnapping and performing an “indecent assault on a man.”
The “man” is a Mormon missionary, whom Joyce wanted to de-program back to the belief that he was her loving fiancé. This sordid episode happened some 35 years ago in jolly ole England, providing early fodder for the then fledgling British tabloid industry. With the Rupert Murdoch “News of the World” hacking scandal in full swing, “Tabloid” couldn’t have arrived at a better time … for Errol Morris.
What is unfortunate for us is that, aside from a few “talking heads” from McKinney co-conspirators and ancient tabloid reporters, we basically get a 90-minute “Joyce” interview. When she decides to clone her dead dog, Booger, there’s no doubt that this woman is “barking mad,” as one Brit puts it. In fact, the closing credits reveal that the focus of her infatuation, “Manacled Mormon” Kirk Anderson, refused to be interviewed. Which makes for rather one-sided reporting, a whole lotta McKinney and no pay off. Morris should realize strange obsessions don’t always lead to Oscar.