'Tabloid' Offers the Truth According to Miss Wyoming

Cloned dogs! Mormon sex! Scandal and subjective reality in Errol Morris' film

Thanks in part to the psychological insights provided by talking head Troy Williams, the Mormon apostate and radio host dubbed the “gay mayor of Salt Lake City,” Tabloid takes on additional topicality—the movie has points of contact with Broadway’s mega-smash The Book of Mormonand the current multi-Mormon Republican presidential race. The real subject, however, is Joyce’s imaginative self-dramatizing—her capacity to act upon and sustain a fantasy scenario, complete with fantasy memories. (“If you tell a lie long enough, you learn to believe it,” she says of the media without apparent irony.) Thus Tabloid’s New York premiere at a documentary festival last fall was punctuated with cries of “Lies!” and “Not her!” reportedly delivered from the audience by Joyce herself. After the movie, she joined Morris onstage, resplendent in a pink pantsuit, a cloned pit bull in tow, to deliver one more self-justifying monologue.

In comparing Tabloid to Kurosawa’s Rashomon, the classic example of subjective narrative and a code for unknowable truth, Morris seems to suggest that it is impossible to establish the particulars of the McKinney-Anderson affair, among other aspects of the Joyce McKinney story—and he's got a movie without needing to investigate. As the filmmaker surely knows, such presumed unfathomability is ultimately less compelling, though, than the enigma of Joyce’s self-created personality. She doesn’t seem delusional, but does she really, truly believe her own explanations? This is the source of the movie’s fascination. Absurd as it sounds, Joyce’s conviction is not only convincing, but also contagious. So, too, is her elastic sense of reality—a 90-minute immersion in her world is enough to make you question your own.

 

This review did not appear in print.

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