Friday, January 10, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Running Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Rating: R

It’s pretty startling to see Matt McConaughey’s appearance in “Dallas Buyers Club.” From our introduction, Ron Woodruff (McConaughey) is an incredibly offensive character, but the journey he goes on (emotionally and physically) is extremely powerful. A hero in the world of AIDS treatment, “Dallas Buyers Club” tells the story of a homophobic, hard-partying, HIV-positive electrician who finds success, and inner peace, by smuggling drugs to sell to other people with HIV.

Though he disgusts us, it’s clear how smart and devious Ron is. He gets around the FDA by selling legal, non-toxic drugs. The only problem is, they haven’t been approved. When Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner) begins to see the positive effects of these drugs as opposed to the heavily-pushed AZT, she supports Ron and tries to help any way she can. Unfortunately, she appears pitiful in a male dominated hospital.

Coming to grips with his diagnosis is incredibly difficult for Ron, and after losing all of his “friends,” he finds an unlikely new support system: a transvestite. As Rayon, Jared Leto is more believable dressed up as a woman, than when he dresses up as a man. He has a heartbreaking scene with his father, and though the tabloids didn’t seem to be as obsessed with his weight loss as McConaughey’s, both men are jaw-droppingly emaciated. Leto’s performance is brilliant. When Ron defends Rayon in the grocery store to his homophobic ex-friend, we see how proud Rayon is: changing one person’s mind about the gay community is enough.

Oscar loves recognizing actors who ruin their appearance for the sake of a film (see Charlize Theron in “Monster,”) but at times it almost seemed too easy for him to be playing a smooth-talking, cunning Southern man. That being said, McConaughey will give any actor a run for the Oscar in this film.
Photos courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times and Taste of Cinema
This is a beautiful story, but the first 20 minutes are hard to watch. You’ll applaud his drive and “can’t stop, won’t stop” approach toward getting these drugs to help people, though his first motivation is clearly money. We don’t see the selflessness until nearly the end of the film, but when we do, it’s powerful.

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