Film Review: TABLOID

Directed by Errol Morris

Perhaps if I’d seen this film on a day other than the one when Amy Winehouse died, I might have watched it in a totally different light. But I didn’t, and so its exploitation of a possibly insane woman over the course of ninety minutes wore a little thin. If this movie is, as it claims to be, an exploration of what tabloids are capable of, we need a fuller picture, one not so reliant on such a small number of interviewees. If it’s an exploration of obsession, we need to understand the object of her obsession.

PLOT: In the late seventies, Joyce McKinney, a former beauty queen, became the subject of a tabloid war in London when she followed her lover, Kirk Anderson there, kidnapped him from a Mormon settlement, manacled him to a bed, and tried to deprogram him from the clutches of Mormon ideology. Oh, and show him just how nice sex can be.
Headlines blared the story, calling Anderson The Manacled Mormon and journalists on the tabloids became obsessed with the past life of Ms, McKinney, finding nude photos of her during a brief career as a nude model.

The movie finds strange obsessions in her later life too.

The subject of the documentary is its main source of information—Ms. McKinney, along with two tabloid writers, and one of the men who aided her in kidnapping her paramour. Absent is the Kirk Anderson, as are several other key figures that had died or declined an interview. So we have a somewhat imperfect picture of the events, an incomplete picture of obsession indeed. We need to know whether a relationship with Anderson existed at all.

The film also seemed to cover the same ground exhaustively with qualms about making its subject seem increasingly insane. It just seemed wrong on a day when another tabloid darling had died. When I laughed at McKinney, I felt like I was being manipulated. When I didn’t laugh, I was alternately depressed or bored. And where is an attempt to analyze why she bears such a desire for this one man? What was his charm?

Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.