As the internet has a breakdown at Vince Vaughn’s inclusion in True Detective 2, we see a perfect casting choice.
About nine o’clock Tuesday night, the internet exploded, outraged at the news of Vince Vaughn’s casting in the second series of HBO’s True Detective. Yes, that internet, the same one that bestows greatness upon the head of Matthew McConaughey, an actor who, five years ago, was worse than Vince Vaughn had ever been. What short memories people have: they remember Vince Vaughn for Couples Retreat, but forget about Swingers; they remember Vince Vaughn for Delivery Man, but forget about his electric little turn in Into the Wild, his scenes the film’s best.
Vaughn excelled at arrogance so well that he would be typecast as the mile-a-minute mouthpiece of the 90s. But was this really him?
Granted, those are only two examples of his quality in a filmography that does its best to suggest he has none, but what fine examples. Look at that scene from Into the Wild – look at Vaughn’s shift from sombre to electrified, sober to actually-maybe-not. “You’re young, you can’t always juggle fire,” he says, sounding like a man who knows full-well what it’s like to get burned. This is true of his character and of Vaughn himself. Swingers, the film that made him, also broke him. Here was this handsome kinda-kid; this tall, wiry, confidant son-of-a-bitch who excelled at playing arrogance so well that, for years, he would be typecast as the mile-a-minute mouthpiece of the 90s. But was this really him?
Because a look at Vaughn’s filmography post-Swingers suggests otherwise: A Secret Sin, A Cool Dry Place, Return to Paradise, Gus Van Sant’s doomed Psycho remake. None of these are the straight “bro” comedies many associate Vaughn with, and, despite their lack of significance, each film presents an attempt by the actor to try and be, well, an actor. To be fair, he failed (for whatever reason), but the attempts were credible. Even some of his earlier outings as an Adam Sandler-esque man-child are to be applauded, as a few of them are downright hilarious (Wedding Crashers springs to mind).
On the back of Into the Wild, though, came Vaughn’s nadir, a triptych of films that sullied his reputation: Fred Claus, Four Christmases and Couples Retreat. One can hardly blame Vaughn for deciding to grab some easy, big money and make this kind of film, especially after years of ridicule for trying to be taken as seriously as he was in Swingers, but even so, this was a low. He hasn’t really recovered.
At least not yet, because something tells me he’s going to spark up and be electric again; something tells me he’s going to own True Detective. There’s always been a darkness to Vaughn, not just in the ever-increasing bags beneath his once bright eyes, but in his delivery, his stance, his style. There’s a melancholy to him, a sense of annihilation, a sense of danger behind his dilapidated face. He’s a clown who doesn’t want to be funny anymore, a snake sick of staying coiled. True Detective will uncoil and unleash him. Beware the bite.
There’s a melancholy to Vaughn, a sense of danger behind his dilapidated face. He’s a clown who doesn’t want to be funny anymore
I’m thinking back to Swingers now, as I type. Vaughn really is damn-good in it: suited and booted and stiletto-sharp, ready to pick up any ‘pretty-honey-babies’ who cross his bacchanalian path on any one of his nocturnal nights. He’s the friend we all have (or maybe are), the one who loves to party, lives to party, but deep down might not want to party at all. Now, I can’t imagine anybody else playing that role – it seems light, but there’s small perforations, little spots of darkness in it. That’s Vaughn all over, a mix of light and dark, a chiaroscuro effect of an actor.
Let’s hope, then, that that effect is as effective as it promises to be. Let’s hope that True Detective is the perfect platform for Vince Vaughn, actor. If one thing’s for certain, it’s that those bags under his eyes will stay (unlike in Anchorman 2, where they were airbrushed off), their darkness hanging there as we prepare the dive into them. A lot of people are against the casting of Vince Vaughn. Me, I’m all for it, baby.
Featured image: Paramount Vantage
Inset image: Pathe