Nicole Kidman vamps it up in steamy Cannes contender
Nicole Kidman sizzles as a small-town vamp drawn to a convicted murderer in Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy", marking the US director's return to Cannes Thursday after his harrowing hit "Precious".
The steamy new picture, set partly in Florida's humid swamps, features a bleached-blonde Kidman as Charlotte, an "oversexed Barbie doll" who carries on correspondence with dozens of prison inmates in the late 1960s.
One day a letter arrives that stands out from the others, mainly in its vivid description of the sex the convict Hillary (John Cusack) wants to have with her when he gets out. Charlotte promptly declares him "The One".
Meanwhile crusading newspaperman Ward (Matthew McConaughey) learns of Hillary's case and believes he has been falsely sent to death row for the killing of a policeman.
Ward, his brother Jack (Zac Efron) and a black writer Yardley (David Oyelowo) begin to investigate with the help of a dossier Charlotte has compiled.
Their first visit to the prison turns into a farcical seduction, as the sex-starved Hillary commands Charlotte to spread her legs and simulate fellatio at a distance as the red-faced reporters look on.
The young Jack, who has an affectionate relationship with the family's African-American housekeeper (singer Macy Gray) in spite of the fraught race relations of the era, falls for Charlotte and tries to win her away from Hillary when he gets out of prison.
The film, one of 22 in the running for the festival's Palme d'Or top prize to be handed out on Sunday, divided the audience at an early press screening, drawing an even mix of applause and boos.
The Australian Kidman, who dials down her natural glamour and turns up the sex appeal in the role of the small-town seductress, said she had been looking for "something raw and more dangerous" when she was given Daniels' screenplay.
"I had seen 'Precious' and I thought it was amazing and I wanted to work with him," she said after the screening.
"Precious", which tells the story of an African-American incest survivor, screened in the festival's Un Certain Regard sidebar section before going on to two Academy Award nominations.