Todd McCarthy praises Daniel's embrace of this trashy style:
"Daniels starts the film in unnecessarily choppy fashion with interview-style narration from the Jansen family’s maid and cook (Macy Gray) that misleadingly makes her an early center of attention. But once it settles in, the story and the characters’ often misguided obsessions take hold. So do the stylistic choices; the film is gloriously grubby in a fashion that technical improvements over the last 40 years have made obsolete. The colors and contrasts are ugly, the lighting garish, the cutting sometimes jarring and jumpy, combining for an inelegant look of a sort that marked low-budget, and often southern-shot, programmers during the AIP, New World and Crown-International era. And it’s perfect for this material and its period."
Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian (UK) also found the film endearing, particularly praising Kidman's performance:
"A heady, humid swamp fever rises from Lee Daniels's violent and black-comic Florida noir The Paperboy, based on the thriller by Pete Dexter: a lazy, funny tone co-exists with menace, and Nicole Kidman gives her best performance since To Die For. Race, sex, journalism, publishing and 60s America are all part of the mix – The Help - was never like this – and Daniels keeps it bubbling. This gripping, scary and queasily funny picture nurtures a dark threat which lurks like one of its gators just below the surface."
In contrast, Eric Kohn of Indiewire found the whole thing a huge mess giving it a dismal D+ -
"Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy" is a rare case of serious commitment to outright silliness. The director's follow-up to "Precious" takes the mold of an investigative period piece set amid racial tensions in late sixties Florida, but Daniels fries the dramatic content with a blazingly absurd grindhouse style as extreme as the humidity bearing down on his characters. It's possible to enjoy aspects of "The Paperboy" if one assumes a certain self-awareness behind the campier bits, but even then, the movie drowns in an overwhelming barrage of excesses."