The story of Joyce McKinney, a former Miss Wyoming from Blue Ridge Mountains, who is charged with abducting and imprisoning Kirk Anderson, a young Mormon Missionary while he is in training in England. With her accomplice, and faithful admirer Keith Joseph May, She takes him to a Devonshire cottage, ties him to the bed and has sex with him for three days, report the excited tabloids. The Mormons soon reclaim Kirk, the only man McKinney has ever loved. McKinney tells her side of the story as the tabloids tell theirs. Some years later, McKinney rekindles media interest in her after having her favourite dog cloned in Korea.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Riveting cinema, Tabloid explores the life of Joyce McKinney, and it's a story that keeps giving, with many elements: a beauty queen, kinky sex, straight sex, sex for sale, organised religion, brainwashing, tabloid press, false papers, cross-Atlantic escape, true love, true faith and dog cloning. Errol Morris hits the doco jackpot with a story that is both resoundingly human and resoundingly ironic about an ex beauty queen with a shady past (as unearthed by London's Daily Mirror, anyway) who falls in love with Kirk Anderson, a young man whose strict religion forbids sex.
And there's more: even as their instant romance is about to be consummated, he is whisked away by the Mormon elders for training in far-off London - but to McKinney he has just disappeared. This is where the main story of Joyce and Kirk really begins, when she sets out to 'rescue' Kirk. Evidently cashed up, she hires body guards to track him down across the Atlantic and takes along her faithful friend (her 'slave') Keith Joseph May for support.
Their plan to kidnap Kirk from the Mormons is like a spy thriller in real life, but half way through McKinney's therapeutic sex-slave antics with Kirk, his brainwashing kicks in and he's off again.
Morris explores how McKinney tells her story from today's perspective (and she tells it with gusty and humour as well as pathos) alongside how London's warring tabloids, the Express and the Mirror told it, back in 1997. He uses some effective devices, such as an old TV to play archival footage, and lots of tabloid-like graphics of headlines and clippings.
All through the seemingly endless revelations that give her story a new twist every few seconds, McKinney comes across as an ordinary woman and now a rather lonely elderly figure, who stands by everything she did in her youth, with admirable guts. Morris doesn't
judge McKinney, nor does he judge the media. He lets us draw our own conclusions on its role. He puts together an amazing profile of a life that is both tragic and noble, with no black and white compartments.
It's what I would have called a gee whizz story, if I had stumbled across McKinney when making my social doco series Front Up, for SBS TV in the 90s.
Review by Louise Keller:
A scandal involving a beauty queen, sex-in-chains, a religious cult, kidnapping and the tabloids are the ingredients of this bizarre true story that gets more fantastic as it goes along. Filled with wall-to-wall sensationalism, filmmaker Errol Morris has plenty into which to get his teeth as he prises open the lid to the scorching story of Joyce McKinney, the all-American pageant winner with the high IQ who would have skied naked down Mount Everest, pink carnation in her nose for the man she loves. Intriguing, compelling and shocking, it is the contradictions of this obsessive woman that are most fascinating as we make up our own mind about the story that played out in the tabloids.
Like umpteen teenage girls, Joyce McKinney is waiting for her prince charming to whisk her away to her dream life. When we first meet the middle aged Joyce McKinney, she tells us about her early years in the small town in Carolina and the special guy she hoped she would meet. She starts dating aged 17 and meets Kirk Anderson, a tall, 19 year old Morman driving a Corvette, who becomes the object of her desire (just like in the movies) and with whom she falls hopelessly in love.
I won't reveal exactly what transpires but when Kirk's parents show their disapproval and Kirk 'disappears', Joyce jumps into action in a bid to 'rescue' the man she then calls 'cult Kirk', hoping he will become the Kirk with whom she has fallen in love. The characters involved include a body builder, a pilot, a doting architect called KJ, who fly to England with a gun, handcuffs and a grand plan which is executed on blue silk sheets (to match Kirk's eyes) with cinnamon oil in what Joyce describes as 'a honeymoon cottage'.
Not surprisingly, when Joyce is arrested, the tabloids jump on the story. Morris has woven Joyce's dialogue to camera with archival footage, interviews, clips from movies and intriguing graphics, as we tag along for the adventure. As it happens, the kidnapping is just a small part of the revelations which include prostitution, naked photos, S & M practices, wresting with tigers and much more. Tabloid proves once again that truth is much stranger than fiction. It's beguiling cinema that will make you scratch your head in amazement.
Email this article
CAST: Documentary featuring Joyce McKinney
PRODUCER: Julie Ahlberg, Mark Lipson
DIRECTOR: Errol Morris
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Chappell
EDITOR: Grant Surmi
MUSIC: John Kusiak
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Antidote Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 22, 2011: Vic, Tas; October 6, 2011: Sydney; November 17, 2011: Qld