Tabloid is a documentary that goes to show life is indeed stranger than fiction.
It tells the story of Joyce McKinney, a former Miss Wyoming who, in 1977 fell in love with a young Mormon missionary named Kirk Anderson. It’s a story that has everything Hollywood can drool over – forbidden love, sex in chains, abduction, religious cult, international crime, tabloid scandal, and much more. With such explosive potential this film should have been mind-blowing. Though the story and the main character are exactly that, the film itself fails to live to the potential. Filmmaker Errol Morris tells the 1977 real story, which most of us by now forgot or never knew, in a more or less chronological order, using current interviews and some archive footage. He smartly uses visually intriguing stylish elements and seems to serve a balanced portion of the story’s multiple versions; one by the colorful Joyce and another by the journalists who provided the media coverage at the time. Yet something is lacking. Here we have this character named Joyce McKinney that projects empathy and tells a story that sounds believable, and then there are the journalists that portray her as nutcase, and their version is equally convincing. Morris chose to make the tabloid scandal the focal point of the film but neglected to take a stand. If the intention was to make the audience the judges, the film fails. A documentary cannot and should not be objective. It should show the different sides of the story but make a point. Tabloid the film, makes no such point. I would have rather seeing this film taking one of several other possible focal points such as Mormons vs Beauty Queen, investigating a cult’s reaction to an outside threat, or McKinney’s – a lamb or a wolf? an investigating of whether this personality draws attention by some force of nature, or creates situations that will satisfy that need.