Jean-Marc Vallee – Dallas Buyers Club
Dallas Buyers Club was supposed to be Matthew McConaughey’s movie. And, to be fair, his performance as a homophobic, hard partying, promiscuous rodeo rider that finds himself stricken with HIV is a massive achievement, his best performance in my opinion. And he certainly commands the movie (but more about that later; MAYBE?; got to keep you guessing on the acting awards). But Vallee absolutely blindsided me with his beautiful, languid, artistic direction. He manages to, in my opinion, elevate himself to being very nearly as valuable to the film as McConaughey himself, which is a huge, huge compliment. His direction is a lot like Penn’s direction in Bonnie & Clyde; it’s undeniably built around giving the actors the space to create indelible, emotional performances, but it’s just as surely beautiful, striking and graceful all on its own. The camera moves with a really exquisite grace, never intrusive or obvious; Vallee creates a dreamlike feeling – there are moments when you’re not quite sure if you’re even seeing reality or some dreamy hallucination/wish/fear from the mind of the protagonist. It’s a surprising directing job and it’s amazing in a film this driven by a performance as overpowering as McConaughey’s that Vallee is able to make himself such an integral part of the film. A lot of directors would just sit back and rest on the rock of the central performance. But Vallee definitely has a visual style and idea of the movie and he has the nerve and the skill to execute it so beautifully, while also allowing McConaughey’s performance to take center stage as it needs to. It’s a direction job both restrained and unrestrained and beautiful in both elements.
Okay, next time we’re going to move on to the acting awards! We’ll start with the Best Ensemble awards. Next time, it’s the five ensembles that barely missed the top ten. It’s the five runners up in the Best Ensemble category. We’ll hit a comedy, a drama, a documentary, an action classic from almost thirty years ago and a film that’s already gotten one runners up award.