×

Editing Dramedies: Restraint is Vital

‘Dallas Buyers Club’ and ‘American Hustle’ keep it real while mixing humor and heartache

Dallas Buyers Club” and “American Hustle” feature distinct stories, but share approaches to the use of both drama and comedy to tell them. The trick, their editors say, is rooting them in reality, while exercising restraint.

“We knew that the subject matter was serious, and wanted a little humor to feel like it’s not so heavy,” says Jean-Marc Vallee, who directed “Dallas Buyers Club” and co-edited under the pseudonym John Mac McMurphy.

Similarly, the comedy in “American Hustle” stems from “telling a serious story about serious characters, and letting the comedy grow out of the conflicts and ironies,” says co-editor Jay Cassidy.

One tragi-comic scene features Jennifer Lawrence’s character flirting with mobsters in front of her husband. The tones can shift because of “the groundwork you do setting up the stakes, so there are many undercurrents happening,” says co-editor Crispin Struthers. Plus, says co-editor Alan Baumgarten, “it’s grounded in a real moment, letting Lawrence play it out in longer beats.”

In “Dallas Buyers Club,” says co-editor Martin Pensa, one sequence features the protagonists hugging for the first time, punctuated by a joke. “We cut to where it was just enough,” Pensa says.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos

    Korea: 'The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos’ Rules Chuseok Holiday Box Office

    Local films dominated cinemagoing in South Korea over the 4-day Chuseok holiday weekend, traditionally one of the year’s busiest periods. The winner was “The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos.” Opening on Wednesday, the CJ Entertainment release earned $20.2 million from 1.97 million admissions over five days. A film adaptation of CJ E&M’s 2014 hit TV [...]

  • Disco

    New Europe Sells Toronto and San Sebastian Film 'Disco' to Several Territories (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jan Naszewski’s New Europe Film Sales has signed several distribution deals on “Disco,” which had its world premiere in Toronto Film Festival’s Discovery section and makes its European premiere in San Sebastian’s New Directors competition. The film has been picked up by Palace for Australia and New Zealand, Artcam for Czech Republic and Slovakia, Kino [...]

  • "Jade Dynasty" in front at the

    China Box Office: 'Jade Dynasty' in Front Ahead of Mixed Competition

    With “Jade Dynasty” out front, Chinese action and Asian animation films led the way at the China box office over the past weekend, while the few American titles in play have failed to attract many moviegoers. Chinese action fantasy “Jade Dynasty” led the weekend box office in its debut with $38.1 million, figures from consultancy [...]

  • The Painted Bird

    Venice Competition Film 'The Painted Bird' Is Czech Entry in Oscar Race

    Václav Marhoul’s “The Painted Bird,” which world premiered at the Venice Film Festival in the main competition and also played at the Toronto Film Festival in Special Presentations, has been selected as the Czech Republic’s entry for the 92nd Academy Awards in the international feature film category. The pic follows the journey of an unnamed [...]

  • Pakistan Picks Freshman Effort 'Laal Kabootar'

    Pakistan Picks Freshman Effort 'Laal Kabootar' as Its Oscar Entry

    Pakistan’s Academy Selection Committee has chosen “Laal Kabootar” as its candidate for the Oscars’ international feature film category. Directed by first-time helmer Kamal Khan, the gangland thriller set in Karachi’s underbelly follows the events that transpire when a woman in search of her husband’s killer is thrown together with a cab driver and petty criminal [...]

  • Atlantis

    Toronto Film Review: 'Atlantis'

    “It took you 10 years to cleanse this region of Soviet propaganda and myths,” says one character to another in “Atlantis,” going on to suggest that the devastation now left behind may never be “cleansed” at all. A strikingly bleak vision of a near future in which Ukraine has won its war with Russia but [...]

  • Beyonce Knowles'The Lion King' film premiere,

    ABC Announces Behind-the-Scenes Special for Beyoncé's 'Lion King' LP

    ABC has announced a new behind-the-scenes look into the making of Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift” LP, which is set to air September 16 on ABC at 10 p.m. EST. Titled “Beyoncé Presents: Making the Gift,” the new hour-long special will allow viewers to “experience the process” behind the “Lion King” companion album, according [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content