Thursday, November 30, 2023
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The Paper Review

Toothless and friendly environments are the new norm for newsrooms but The Paper has a nostalgia to it that many in the industry have never experienced. Thankfully dodging that and working from home is the way to go. The future is now. For The Paper, the tabloid runners of some nondescript, big city print idolise workaholism, sleeping in suits and ignoring the necessary balance of home and work life. The Paper tools up the ideal workaholic journalist as some extreme that many in the industry may see in themselves. For those outside the bubble, a man describing snaps of a criticised man on a tabloid cover may see some cretinous leech. For others, they see the pursuit of a story through the wrong avenue. Whatever the case, The Paper has lots of threads to try and tie in this Michael Keaton-led ensemble. 

Workplace promises and the balance of a happy flow is key to The Paper. It is at its heart a people-led drama, even when the people within are hard to see as living, breathing individuals. They are one moving husk, an ever-present beast that director Ron Howard nearly squanders. It is his birthright. He peaked on camera with The Shootist and has remained like an uninvited house guest getting too cosy and too comfortable with dipping into the fridge. Discontent bubbles when low-paid workers are given high-stakes tasks. Robert Duvall is a great draw for this piece and The Paper uses him well as a foul-mouthed stress-head. Everyone above news reporter appears to fear and loathe their lives.  

But there they remain, addicted to the draw of good views, great moments and the newsroom appeal. That may have changed for the modern era, but the addiction is still there. The Paper makes for a wonderful piece that works on camaraderie and sheer grit. An incredibly fake-looking pregnancy bubble for Marisa Tomei gives the home drama some trouble and Glenn Close makes for a decent sparring partner to Keaton’s workaholic torn by a job he loves and a job that pays well. Biting back and forth feels more reliant on the stellar cast than on anything particular with the script. It hits on the notes of the tabloid, those ever-present stories that always work and will never ebb because they still do what they are meant to. Crime is the core of a newspaper yet for The Paper, it fails to conclude its morality and link with a murder with anything tangible. 

Whether the power of the press even in the mid-90s could carry the weight Howard gives it is questionable. Not everything has to be All the President’s Men, but to frame it in the same mentality and give it that Bulworth sparkle that ran through America all through the 1990s and a little later that decade with the Warren Beatty feature is a broad net to cast. Journalism is fixated on life and death day by day, but it is rare both can be found in the smaller and smaller teams that are in control of what constitutes news and what fashions up funny little bits not good enough to write of. The Paper finds itself deep in the heart of a crusty newsroom but shies away from it to take to the streets of New York City, where it finds nothing new.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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