The beauty of documentary is that no matter how brilliant an author or how talented a screenwriter, there really is no competing with real life. In the case of Joyce McKinney, no author in the world could even begin to dream such a surreal tale. A former Miss Wyoming falls in love with a brainwashed Mormon, chases him to England, kidnaps, chains and rapes him, before he escapes to prosecute her for her crimes. Almost every part of that synopsis is up for further debate throughout the film, as each side tells different versions of the same basic story.
One party unable to decide who to believe is director Errol Morris, who seems content to simply film TABLOID as an ode to American eccentricity, showcasing characters from this bizarre life story. One such character, Peter Tory of the Daily Express, describes McKinney as, “A bit crazy, eccentric … barking mad basically”, and there are no better adjectives for Joyce, or this film in general. Whilst it may not have the political poignancy of his past works, TABLOID manages to tell its story with great intelligence and humour.
Morris’ usual search for truth isn’t really possible here, but he seems content to not seek it. Instead, he simply lets each party tell their story, and quietly crafts one of his best films to date. The story of Joyce McKinney is undeniably intriguing, and Morris manages to juggle stories from a variety of sources to give an impressive and endlessly entertaining account.