(director: Errol Morris; cinematographer: Robert Chappell; editor: Grant Surmi; music: John Kusiak; Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Julie Bilson Ahlberg/Mark Lipson; Sundance Selects; 2010)
“Compelling, weird and queasy documentary on the eccentric Joyce McKinney and her stranger-than-fiction story.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Errol Morris (“The Fog of War”/”The Thin Blue Line”/”Fast, Cheap & Out of Control”)is the director of this compelling, weird and queasy documentary on the eccentric Joyce McKinney and her stranger-than-fiction story. It might be the perfect tabloid story, as it covers kinky sex, a kidnapping rape by a woman on a man, a Rashomon-like quest for the truth and an exotic religion.
Joyce was born and raised in North Carolina and is a former Miss Wyoming, who has an IQ of 168. Her strange love story leaves her not romantically fulfilled. Others think it’s not a love story but the story of a madwoman and born liar, someone in denial about real love who falsely thought of herself as a “fairy queen” seeking a “prince charming” who was brainwashed by the Mormons to reject her love.
Joyce tells in detail how she fell in love with the clean-cut Mormon named Kirk Anderson while both were driving their Corvettes, when she was living in Salt Lake City, Utah. Unfortunately his mom objected to their marriage on religious grounds and asked the church elders to intervene. The result was that Kirk vanished. The obsessive Joyce had a private detective track him down in England, where he was on a Mormon mission. Joyce apparently has enough money to hire a bodyguard and a pilot and also brings along a close male friend nicknamed KJ (Keith Joseph May) to go to England and bring back her true love.
The London tabloids reported on November 23, 1977 that the 21-year-old Kirk Anderson told the police how Joyce kidnapped him in front of his church and then she forcibly made love to him for three days while he was chained and spread-eagled to a bed in a remote Devon cottage. The press had a field day with the story and playfully dubbed it “The Case of the Manacled Mormon!” The 28-year-old McKinney claimstheir sex was consensual and furthermore she said: “I loved Kirk so much that I would have skied down Mount Everest in the nude with a carnation up my nose.”
Released on bail before the scheduled May 1978 trial, Joyce found herself a celebrity and was welcomed into the pop star London scene where she enjoyed showing off in front of the camera. She then sneaked out of the country by posing as a deaf mute couple with the loyal KJ. Back in the States, she told her story to Daily Express gossip columnist Peter Tory, while the smarmy tabloid rival at the Daily Mirror, Kent Gavin, photographer/reporter, refuted her story that she was just an innocent by uncovering photos of her posing in the nude and in S&M bondage poses.
After thirty years out of the limelight, as England does not extradite her, Joyce’s beloved pet pit bull Booger dies and she pays a Korean Ph.D, based in Seoul, to clone the dog for $25,000 and the clone is successful. This gets the attention of the press, and the willing and able storyteller is back in the news again.
It’s a delirious tale about what is the truth and if a good story is better than the truth, and leaves us pondering some questionable religious practices from an organized religion that the rest of the Christian community, for the most part, considers a cult. It’s also a tale about a manipulative, self-absorbed and “barking mad” self-promoter, who has a bizarre story to tell and catches the interest of a public seemingly starved for stories that are lurid and titillating even if not necessarily true.
REVIEWED ON 11/10/2011 GRADE: B-