Now on Netflix: "Tabloid," by Errol Morris

I seem to watch more documentaries than any other genre on Netflix streaming video. That means I periodically exhaust the category of things I want to see. When that happens, I usually ignore the documentary listings for a few months. When I look again, almost invariably the service will have added a few things I’m eager to watch. This time, I was pleased to find that Eugene Jarecki’s lauded documentary “The House I Live In,” about the war on drugs and its impact on the prison population, is now available. I expect I’ll watch it in the coming weeks. But I couldn’t resist immediately watching another recent Netflix addition, Errol Morris’s “Tabloid.”

Eminently watchable, I’d still have to classify this as one of Morris’s slighter works. And I should clarify that the film is only watchable if you can tolerate a heavy dose of its subject, Joyce McKinney, the woman at the center of the so-called “Mormon Sex-in-Chains” case, which spawned a British tabloid newspaper war that gave the film its title.

Speaking directly to the camera via Morris’s Interrotron set-up, Joyce McKinney comes off, to put it politely, as a narcissist nutjob. Between her delusions of fairy-tale love, her blinkered persecution complex and her syrupy southern drawl, she’s a lot to take as she gives her side of the story.

And what a story it is: former beauty pageant winner Joyce meets a young straitlaced, lumpy-gravy Mormon man, becomes convinced their love is fated, then with two male co-conspirators in tow, travels to Great Britain where her true love has been sent on mission, kidnaps him and sexes him up in an effort to break him from the church’s grasp. 

The incident spawned a war amongst British tabloids, who couldn’t spill enough ink on the subject, with Joyce favoring one popular paper as her trusted outlet, while vilifying a rival paper that goes all out digging up dirt in an effort to sully her carefully crafted pure southern belle image—an effort that proves all-too-easy and all-too-fruitful. The truth was, of course, that all the players were co-dependent, that Joyce’s favored paper was exploiting her just as badly as the “evil” tabloid, and that she was exploiting them all.

And then after that she starts talking about that one time when she cloned her dog, “Booger.” Yes, really.

Worth a watch. Trailer below. Oh, and in researching this post, I learned that Joyce McKinney sued Errol Morris, alleging she was tricked into participating in the film and that it misrepresents her story. Well, of course she did!