Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Denis O'Hare, Steve Zahn
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (Cafe de Flore, The Young Victoria, Loser Love, Los Locos)
Dallas Buyers Club (opening today) manages to be a good film without being great, significant without being important. It's a based-on-a-true story that chronicles that scary time period in American history in the mid-1980s, when the AIDS virus was just coming into full effect.
At that time, not many Americans were knowledgeable about what HIV and AIDS were. Many thought it was a gay disease, something that afflicts those with "alternative" life styles. Imagine the surprise then for the the masculine cowboy, Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), when he is told by his doctor that he has HIV and only about 30 days to live.
At first he reacts angrily, but then survival mode kicks in. He studies up on the virus and finally accepts his fate when he sees that it can also be passed through the blood, or by intravenous drug use. He begrudgingly befriends Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner) who tries to treat him with the at-the-time experimental drug, AZT. The large doses - matched with Woodroof's continued use of drugs and alcohol - puts his already dizzying tailspin into a full-out plummet.
But Ron eventually finds a doctor working outside of the system, who shuns AZT and instead asks his patients to load up on vitamins and healthier alternatives. The affects are stunning for Ron. He buys into the method but quickly comes to a realization: There is a lot of money to be made transporting and selling these drugs on the black market to those, like himself, suffering from HIV and in desperate need of care.
That's when he meets the transgender Rayon (Jared Leto). Ron - this homophobic, Southern bigot - somehow becomes friends with Rayon. The only thing they have in common is their common love of life and wanting to do whatever is necessary to make it in this world. They act as partners - business partners, Ron would point out - and the Dallas Buyers Club is born.
Matthew McConaughey lost plenty of weight for this role and he is once again stellar. It's hard to believe that this often shirtless on-screen meathead of years past has now put together one of the most impressive stretches of acting performances currently going over the last few years. From The Lincoln Lawyer, to Bernie, to Magic Mike, to Killer Joe, to Mud and now Dallas Buyers Club, it's hard to argue that McConaughey is easily one of the best - if not the best - working actor today.
Jared Leto is also fantastic as Rayon, a role that seems to be getting lots of awards buzz. While Leto is good, McConoughey is great. Both lend themselves heavily to the success of this film.
But Dallas Buyers Club is not without problems. About half-way through, Woodroof becomes a two-dimensional "hero," a man who becomes heroic internally because the film demands this of him. There is little in the way of drama at that point as well as it dips deeply into predictable waters. The first half though, portraying Woodroof's realizations about himself and how his condition was viewed by his closest friends, ignites just enough momentum for the rest of the film to ride on through until the end.
It should have resonated more given the subject matter, but Dallas Buyers Club's strength is in its powerful performances.
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