Jean Marc Vallee

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Film acting is a difficult craft to judge. Actually, most film crafts are difficult to judge because they’re not usually very transparent. When you go to see live theater acting, you are certain you’re watching the extent of an actor’s performance. You’re directly witnessing their abilities. When you’re watching a film, however, you’re seeing the compilation of selected takes and a chopped-up performance. It’s more likely that a film director can get a good performance from an actor by perfecting every brief segment given in each brief shot and then constructing one out of those building blocks. Typically I look at a film’s editing when judging its acting merits. Choppier films can seem an overcompensation for weaker acting talent, while long shots are more akin to theater and require strong actors to hold those uninterrupted scenes. A perfect example of the latter this year is Birdman, which is made to look like it’s almost entirely done in a single take. A perfect example of the former, one would think, should be Wild, as it seems to feature the most cuts in a Hollywood release this year outside of Transformers: Age of Extinction. Yet both the editing and acting in Wild are excellent, the first even better than the second. So why is Reese Witherspoon garnering all of the attention and buzz while editors Martin Pensa and “John Mac McMurphy” (director Jean-Marc Vallee‘s pseudonym) are going ignored?

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Reese With Her Spoon Going Wild

“Strayed” isn’t really Cheryl Strayed’s last name. The author and subject of “Wild” was originally born Cheryl Nyland, and eventually decided to change her surname after years of pain and a particularly wrenching divorce – and, if the movie adaptation of her novel is to believed, it was literally plucked out of the dictionary after careful consideration – into something that echoed, well, how she had strayed from her path, and possibly her wish to get back on track. When we first meet Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) in Jean-Marc Vallee’s lovingly crafted Wild, she’s bloody and bruised and gasping, perched high atop a mountain, desperately pulling off her too-tight hiking boots to reveal a blood-soaked sock and a big toe that’s in bad shape. Terrified and alone, Cheryl yanks loose a cracked toenail, practically spits in pain and jostles loose a single boot, which tumbles down the rocky incline, never to be seen again. Cheryl’s next move is perhaps a bad one: she stands, screams and chucks her other boot after it. How do you get back on track after that? You stand and you yell and you chuck your other boot. And then you keep walking.

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Reese With Her Spoon Going Wild

There comes a time in every woman’s life where she has to face a couple forks in the road. When her life is going completely to hell and there’s really nothing that can remedy the situation. Is this the time to give up and curl into the fetal position indefinitely? Or does she gather up a fat stack of Oprah magazines and take life by the steering wheel, setting forth some impossible self-help journey to cleanse her system of whatever’s bringing her down? Girlfriend, you know the answer. The first trailer for Wild, the Nick Hornby-scripted adaptation of the wildly popular memoir by Cheryl Strayed, gets a few things clear straight off the bat. The source material for the film contains much darker depths than we’re used to seeing from the “find yourself” genre. One of the main reasons for Cheryl setting out on her journey is to cope with her former heroin addiction, and it’s clear from flashbacks peppered into the trailer that while the habit might be kicked, the emotional toll may still be present. It’s a stark contrast to Eat, Pray Love, where Elizabeth was dissatisfied with a mostly okay life and went on an extended vacation to canoodle with handsome dudes, or even something like How Stella Got Her Groove Back, where Stella … gets her groove back … directly via Taye Diggs on vacation. The other point is that Reese Witherspoon‘s hair after weeks on the Pacific Crest is much better than mine looks after sitting at a desk writing all day.

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There are very few reviews out there for Dallas Buyers Club that don’t make mention of its stars’ Oscar chances. The movie is a real showcase for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto‘s two larger than life performances, to the point where the Academy could use virtually all of their scenes for their nomination clip. Our Kate Erbland described their performances as the best from Tiff, saying that “Dallas Buyers Club lives and dies on the strength of its two lead performances, and it’s a solid pairing of both good luck and pure talent that McConaughey and Leto bring their absolute best to a film that requires nothing less.” It also lives or dies on director Jean-Marc Vallée. The filmmaker behind C.R.A.Z.Y. knows how to capture those quality performances on an exceptionally tight deadline. Speaking with Vallée, he expressed appreciation for his two leading men, while also delving into how exactly he shot McConaughey, Leto, and co-star Jennifer Gardner’s performances. Here’s what Vallée had to say on the subject:

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If anyone has seen Legally Blonde or Sweet Home Alabama one of the approximately 700,000 times they have played on daytime TV during the past decade, you would know two things to be true: that Reese Witherspoon is the queen of romantic comedies, and that the woman is a spitfire. Save for the unspeakable This Means War, she’s left the ro-mcom genre alone for a few years, choosing instead to exercise those dramatic acting chops that got her the Best Actress Oscar in 2005 for Walk the Line. Currently, she’s doing just that by filming Jean-Marc Vallée‘s Wild, the adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name by Cheryl Strayed. Wild tells Strayed’s personal tale of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches more than 1000 miles of the Pacific Coast, by herself after her life spins out of control. She has some things to work out, okay? Witherspoon recently tweeted the first look at herself as Strayed, in her hiking getup “on set” in Oregon. Looking a little bedraggled and saddled with gear, it’s different from what we’re used to seeing from the usually glamorous star. And that’s potentially a good thing – gritty gets the gold.

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Matthew McConaughey, in continuing his transition away from “alright alright alright” McConaughey, and into  “adult who wears clothes and makes adult choices” McConaughey,” is next starring in Jean-Marc Vallée‘s much talked-about Dallas Buyers Club. The film tells the true story of Ron Woodruff (McConaughey), an AIDS activist who suffered from the disease himself in the 1980s, a time when it was largely misunderstood and feared. Woodruff, after far outliving the 30-day life expectancy given to him by his doctor (Jennifer Garner), devotes his life to smuggling and selling treatments to HIV and AIDS patients who don’t have the time to wait for the government to help them. In the new stills released from the film, we get a good look at an extremely slimmed-down McConaughey as Woodruff, which has been talked about at great lengths in the press since the moment his casting was announced. As dangerous as starving himself was, McConaughey looks the part – it’s jarring. I sincerely hope he gorged himself on burritos while jamming on his bongos after shooting wrapped. In the various shots, as you can see, Woodruff negotiates with doctors, including a very concerned looking Garner, and appears to be making a few deals with potential buyers. The outfits are all on point for 1980’s Texas as well. Garner in the shot with McConaughey looks like the girl from a teen movie who would be beautiful at prom if only she would take off her glasses. Take a look:

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We live in a shrinking world. Boundaries are becoming more porous, commerce straddles the oceans, and communication is wide-reaching and constant. The movies have followed suit. There are hyperlink projects like Babel, of course, but international connections have also been explored on a more modest scale. Québec in particular has produced a mighty handful of films that embrace not only the nation’s multi-cultural character but also its global implications. Recent Oscar nominees Monsieur Lazhar and Incendies weave intercontinental stories with ease. Jean-Marc Vallée has added a new layer to this globally open trend with his new film, Café de Flore. Where other movies have simply been content to tell a single story that happens to span thousands of miles, Vallée has undertaken to make the interconnectedness of humanity itself his thematic focus. He reaches across both space and time, building bridges between the most impossibly distant of characters. He starts in modern-day Montreal. Antoine Godin, played by the newly cleaned and buffed Québecois rocker Kevin Parent, is leading a mostly perfect life. He is deeply in love with his girlfriend, the vivacious Rose (Evelyne Brochu). He has two beautiful daughters from his ex-wife, Carole (Hélène Floren), with whom he still has a strained but amicable relationship. An internationally successful DJ, he jets around the globe helping people lose their inhibitions. Yet as his relationship with Rose progresses, he is forced to confront the grounded parts of his life and the residual damage to his family left by the divorce.

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The Dallas Buyer’s Club was at one time set to star Ryan Gosling. At another point there was word the project was going forward with Brad Pitt in the lead. I know what you’re probably asking yourself right now, “Who are those guys?” Doesn’t matter. Put those nobodies out of your head. The important information is that the upcoming biopic of Dallas electrician Ron Woodroof now has the good fortune of having the greatest living actor, Mathew McConaughey, leading it into the theaters. Back in it’s old incarnations Buyer’s Club was at one time going to be directed by Marc Forster, and another by Craig Gillespie. Now it will be helmed by The Young Victoria director Jean Marc Vallee. It was formerly going to be funded by Universal, but now it is proceeding as an independent. As McConaughey put it, “It’s not exactly the movie that studios are throwing money at these days.” Why is that? Probably because it is a dark, maybe controversial story about a man who contracted the AIDS virus in the late 80s and spent the rest of his life smuggling illegal alternative treatments into the US in an attempt to prolong not only his life, but the lives of other people who suffered from the disease. Due to his efforts Woodroof reportedly lived six years longer than his doctor’s diagnosis said he would, and he also managed to successfully prolong the lives of many others as well. The Dallas Buyer’s Club sounds like the Schindler’s List […]

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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