Before this film I had never heard of Joyce McKinney and her bizarre headline grabbing life. It's a fitting statement of her bizarre story, one that grabs attention and fizzles out as the next sensational tale takes hold of the headlines of magazines and newspapers at the check-out line. It's got it all -- a former beauty queen, a Mormon missionary, violence and kinky sex.
Joyce McKinney was in search of that special guy her whole life. After living in L.A. for a stretch, she moved to Utah where she meet Kirk Anderson. For Joyce it was love at first sight. The problem for Kirk was that he was a Mormon and was expected to marry a nice Mormon girl. Not a former Miss Wyoming. Kirk up and left on his required mission without telling Joyce where he was going. She hired a private investigator to hunt him down, believing he had been kidnapped and brainwashed by a cult.
She located Kirk in England. Along with her devoted friend KJ May, she hired a pilot and a bodyguard to accompany them to the U.K. on a mission to free Kirk. With spy gear and a gun in their possession, they quickly lost their paid help and had to do it alone. What happened next is up for interpretation.
Joyce's story is that she took Kirk to a cottage in the countryside where she made him all the foods that he loved and attempted to de-brainwash him. She gave him cinnamon oil massages. They had sex. When Kirk went impotent, Joyce consulted a Christian sexual manual that said she should tie him up so that he could relax and let go of his sexual hang ups. According to Joyce, they willingly went into town together where Kirk saw a headline that he was missing and decided to call his church to tell them he was okay. Joyce never saw him again.
Kirk claims that he was held a gunpoint and taken to the cottage against his will. There he was sexual assaulted. Joyce believes his story is just Mormon brainwashing again. Like she says, how can a woman rape a man? That's like trying to shove a marshmallow into a parking meter. As a result she and KJ were arrested. The tabloids ran with the story, making her an instant celebrity attending movie openings in London. But when the attention got too hot and jail time loomed, she and KJ posed a deaf mutes, jumped bail and flew to Canada.
The British tabloids battled it out with conflicting takes on the story. Peter Tory, a reporter for The Daily Express, landed an interview with Joyce, telling her side of the story. She paints herself as the enduring romantic who will love Kirk until the end of time. She sees herself as the good girl who gave up her virginity to save the man she loved from a cult. Meanwhile, The Daily Mirror paints a different story. They dig up over a thousand modeling photos of Joyce, many nude and S&M style. Mirror photographer Kent Gavin found ads for her advertising as a call girl. But things are never cut and dry. Her former friend Steve Moskowitz said that she might have given oral, but no one had sex with her. I guess in Joyce's mind that still made her the nice girl next door.
Then when the story seems over it takes another bizarre turn. Joyce once again finds herself in the tabloid headlines. But this time it's Bernann McKinney, not that Joyce Bernann McKinney from the Mormon sex in chains scandal.
This film is very akin to Morris' hilarious docs GATES OF HEAVEN and VERNON, FLORIDA with the biopic flavor of his MR. DEATH, another doc about a delusional person, thrown in as well. He has fun with the sensational story by superimposing some of the more salacious statements by his interviewees up on the screen. Moreover, he uses cutout style animation to liven Joyce's tales up as well.
Tory describes Joyce in the film as barking mad. Director Errol Morris simply allows Joyce to back that claim up. She is a flamboyant and passionate personality. She has painted an image of herself in her head and no fact to the contrary will change that. When Kirk comes back to the States, she follows him. Some (like the police) call it stalking. She sees it as her undying devotion. She claims that Mormonism warped Kirk's sex drive, but it seems that her own religious upbringing has warped her and she is simply projecting that onto Kirk. At one point in reference to Kirk, she says, "If you tell a lie long enough, you learn to believe it."