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Joyce McKinney
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Errol Morris.
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Mormon on fire

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Seminal documentarist Errol Morris turns his spotlight onto the strange case of Joyce McKinney, who, in 1977, was accused of abducting her boyfriend and absconding with him to Devon. The ensuing media scrum ensured McKinney stayed in the headlines, but was the true story ever revealed?

Nobody comes out of this curious exposé of yellow journalism with much credit. For somebody so desperate to correct inaccuracies in the reporting of her 1977 Devon kidnap of Mormon lover Kirk Anderson, Joyce McKinney exaggerates her eccentricity with resistible self-consciousness, while hack Peter Tory and paparazzo Kent Gavin are loathesomely smug in their mockery of a woman they purportedly drove to attempt suicide. However, documentarist Errol Morris hardly helps matters with his use of giant captions to highlight seemingly incriminating words. He clearly finds his subject and her persecutors ghoulishly fascinating and the story faintly ridiculous. But he has surprisingly little to say about tabloid tactics or the extent to which the media reflects the society on which it reports.

A compelling story told with Morris's usually flair. Still, hard not to think of it as a disappointment by the director's exalted standards and a missed opportunity to explore society's dysfunctional relationship with its media.

Reviewed by Patrick Peters

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