Friday, June 22, 2012

Errol Morris strikes again: the mystery of "Tabloid"

Recently I had the good fortune to be re-acquainted with Errol Morris

Other than stumbling on this New York Times video short about the man holding an umbrella under blue skies at the epicenter of the JFK assassination, I hadn't caught up with this master filmmaker in some time. I'd bought "The Fog of War," but the moment for two hours of heavy reflection on the Vietnam War disaster hadn't come.

I'd seen a trailer for Morris's most recent film "Tabloid" when it was in the theaters. The movie looked really intriguing, but it soon slipped out of my awareness as I got caught up in daily life.

Fortunately, the new releases at my local video store were really weak the other night. I got all the way up to T without a solid pick, so "Tabloid" (helped along by an enthusiastic blurb from one of the video store employees) was a no-brainer.

Morris's latest eccentric subject is Joyce McKinney, an animated and highly entertaining character who rambles on mellifluously and smiles often at the absurdities and ironies she uncorks as the director sits off-camera asking questions. Joyce, a former Miss Wyoming with a self-proclaimed I.Q. of 168, is a princess who grew up in a small town fixated on meeting her Prince Charming and living a "Leave it to Beaver" existence.  

Kirk Anderson was Joyce's unlikely Prince Charming. According to Joyce, they met and instantly fell in love. Anderson said he loved her on the first date, and within a few days they talked about marriage and began discussing names for their children.

But there was the small matter of their religious differences. Joyce wanted to get married in a Christian church, and Kirk was a Mormon priest. Not to mention that--as Joyce tells it--Kirk's mother wasn't too happy that he was in love with a Christian. 

Not long after, Anderson disappeared into thin air. 

Joyce McKinney moved to L.A., saved a bunch of money (doing work that is bound to raise
Joyce McKinney
an eyebrow) and hired a private investigator. She was informed that Kirk Anderson was now living in England, so flew overseas to "liberate him" from the Church of Latter-day Saints, in 1977.

Through a mix of interviews, photos, and archival video, the story takes off from here into stranger-than-fiction directions one could never imagine. 

And as a fantastical tale is being spun, the viewer never knows what actually happened because Anderson's statements to British authorities (in 1977) were radically different from McKinney's, and he has stayed quiet ever since. 

In essence, Anderson has a story (which McKinney says was driven by his fear of excommunication), McKinney has her story - which London's Daily Express echoed while their competitor the Daily Mirror had a different, much less flattering version of events - and other pieces of the puzzle are filled in by the pilot who took McKinney to England and Troy Williams, a former Mormon missionary who speculates on what Anderson's fears and motivations may have been throughout the whole episode.  

The movie is equal parts investigation, media dissection, and he said-she said exercise, and above all, an engrossing meditation on the lengths someone will go to for true love. 

1 comment:

  1. Intriguing review, Dan. I look forward to seeing the movie.