Joyce McKinney: the psychopath beauty queen in Errol Morris' TABLOID

In 1977 Joyce McKinney, a Miss Wyoming beauty queen, flew to England, kidnapped her former boyfriend, Kirk Anderson – a Mormon missionary – and drove him to a cottage where she tied him to the bed and raped him repeatedly in an attempt to become pregnant. According to McKinney, however, Kirk left with her willingly and the two proceeded to have the best weekend of their lives. She didn’t get pregnant either way, a failing she attributes to the evil Mormon brainwashing that made Anderson impotent. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then you haven’t seen TABLOID, the latest from veteran documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (FOG OF WAR, THE THIN BLUE LINE). Extensive interviews with the very camera un-shy McKinney, as well as with the tabloid reporters who followed the case, a young ex-Mormon and even a Korean dog cloner, make this hands down the most entertaining documentary I’ve seen all year. And since Anderson refused to be interviewed (no surprise there), you’re naturally left puzzling over what really happened long after.

And there’s a lot to puzzle over. The plot gets so thick it becomes pretty clear that McKinney must be batshit crazy to see her way out of it without any sense of remorse. But Morris navigates the scandalous waters with dexterity. He’s not only a gifted interviewer but a seasoned and captivating storyteller, allowing the events to unfold slowly, like a striptease (an appropriate metaphor for this film). He lets one juicy detail drop, then another until we’re up to our necks in lies, sex, love, obsession, disguises, bondage, back page call girl ads, religion, secrecy, bail-jumping and betrayal. “It’s a return to my favorite genre,” Morris says, “sick, sad and funny. But, of course, it’s more than that. It’s a meditation on how we’re shaped by the media and, even more powerfully, by ourselves.” As McKinney says herself, “You know, you can tell a lie long enough until you believe it.”

One of the actual tabloid magazine covers from ye olde bucket o’ sleaze, The Daily Mirror.