Errol Morris’ latest, ‘Tabloid,’ examines the curious humor of Mormon sex scandal

tabloid
Sundance Selects/Courtesy

To call Erroll Morris’ new documentary a love story would be a serious understatement. Not to mention, a slight misnomer. The kind of love found in “Tabloid” isn’t the typical fare of Hollywood melodramas where woman meets man. No, instead of roses and the warbles of Louis Armstrong, we are presented with a manacled Mormon. It’s a bizarre story to say the least, but under the command of veteran filmmaker Errol Morris, “Tabloid” emerges as an intriguing and endlessly comical insight into the workings of not only the mad mind behind this menagerie, Joyce McKinney, but the wild beast otherwise known as the tabloid press.

The story begins, in the words of former beauty queen Joyce McKinney, “once upon a time” — that time being ’70s when McKinney met the dashing, but devout Mormon Kirk Anderson in what she describes as a whirlwind romance. But, one day, he was gone. Nowhere to be found. So, naturally, McKinney saved some funds, hired a private plane, bodyguard and with a mysterious male accomplice, flew to England where Anderson was stationed as a missionary. Her motive: save him from this “cult” religion. Her method: kidnapping. What happened next — from Anderson’s alleged capture and rape to McKinney’s arrest to her more recent turn as a patron of canine cloning — could rival any tall-tale due to its sheer absurdity. Only more shocking than the saga itself is the question of whether any of it’s true.

It’s a story with curious and dubious storytellers. McKinney herself, with her sweet blue eyes and charming southern drawl, recounts her story as a victimized romantic. The tabloid reporters themselves point her out as a manic, opportunist looking for fame. The narrative becomes tangled with the hype surrounding it, but under the sardonic scrutiny of the masterful Morris, “Tabloid” never confirms the truth. Though it may be lighter in tone than Morris’ previous work, it’s still as provocative and just as entertaining.