Exhibit B: In 1977, Joyce McKinney, a former pin-up model and Miss Wyoming winner, fell in love with Kirk Anderson, a conservative Mormon who, despite his strict religious upbringing, fell into a mutual courtship with McKinney. Weeks later, Anderson was sent on his Mission (a duty of all Mormons) to England, abandoning McKinney and reaffirming his faith. Days later, McKinney came to England, kidnapped Anderson at gun point, drove him to a cottage hundreds of miles away, tied him to a bed, and forced him to have sex with her for three days. When the two returned to England, Anderson turned himself in the minute he could and told police and his church that McKinney had kidnapped and raped him.
There’s a common maxim which states that there are three sides to every story: Yours, Theirs, and The Truth. Exhibit A is, more or less, McKinney’s version of the events that made her a tabloid sensation. Exhibit B is, more or less, the adverse spin on the story that we get from other principals involved. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? I’m not entirely sure. And this being an Errol Morris documentary, that isn’t really the point, anyway.
Errol Morris, who shares the title of best living documentarian with his mentor, Werner Herzog, never seeks to differentiate fact from fiction, truth from reality. He gets subjects in front of a camera and lets them speak, often showing reenactments of their version of the story. And, because people are people – meaning they remember and reflect the same event in different ways – Morris’s films often show many versions of the same story.
Are the people of Vernon, Florida really cutting off their limbs to cash in on their insurance policies? Did Randall Adams really deserve to be on death row for the murder of a police officer? (No, as The Thin Blue Line discovered, he did not, and he was later acquitted.) Were the soldiers who tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib really just following Standard Operating Procure?
To Morris, I believe, the truth isn’t as interesting as the reason. We may not ever know why McKinney did what she did (Anderson wisely declined to be interviewed for the film) but that doesn’t mean that Tabloid isn’t one of the most entertaining documentaries you’re likely to see this year. On top of telling compelling stories, Morris is a master filmmaker. He’s help shift the perception within the genre that documentaries can too be technically flawless, in addition to telling a striking story.
Tabloid wastes not one second of the viewer’s time. At 87 minutes, it’s paced swiftly while still making room for some lingering questions. McKinney’s story (which she recorded for Morris during a single day) is incredible in and of itself. But with a master behind the wheel, it becomes riveting. A-