Review: Dallas Buyers Club

Since before the start of the new millennium until just after 2010, Matthew McConaughey‘s body of work was just that, a body that worked well on the screen for so many of the aimless, brainless onslaught of romantic/comedy disasters, in which he played the lead. In 1996, McConaughey played Jake Tyler Brigance in Joel Schumacher‘s A Time To Kill. Hailed as the best performance of his career, it seemed like, critically that was the closest the actor would get to any praise.

In 2011, McConaughey took the lead in Brad Furman‘s The Lincoln Lawyer, a by-the-number crime/mystery, where McConaughey was able to flex some of his acting muscles as opposed to abdominal muscles. Since then, in what has been the most sudden and misunderstood acting turn in recent memory, McConaughey has reinvented his career and is continuing to be casted as a serious actor with serious acting skills.

While the Texan acting inspiration has remolded his career in a time span that puts to shame that of Downey Jr. and Travolta, one of McConaughey‘s unflinching signature acting staples is his bold and proud Texan accent. And while I can’t really imagine how a cowboy like himself was cast in Christopher Nolan‘s upcoming science fiction Interstellar, McConaughey and his accent were surely a match made in heaven for his role as the slowly weathering and dying HIV/AIDS patient Ron Woodruff.

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For Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey and his accent worked exceptionally well. Quebecois director Jean-Marc Vallee helms McConaughey as Ron Woodruff; a rugged, homophobic, ultra-macho, bull-riding, money-throwing, shit-disturbing playboy with no accord to anyone. Woodruff, a money hustling, chance-taking electrician juggles his fortune, his luck, his women, and his job to make ends meet and live a somewhat fulfilling life. After an unexpected accident at work leaves Woodruff hospitalized, he is left with no choice but to make a difference in his life and the lives of many others.

Upon learning of his recent HIV positive diagnosis and short thirty day life expectancy, Woodruff, reluctant to die, uses his hustling, smooth-talking, greasing ways to secure him a new, untested medicine to prolong the spread of his HIV; the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved AZT. After consuming an uncontrolled amount of AZT, the only legal drug that was available at the time in the United States, all the while, still abusing his substances, Woodruff has a close encounter with death. Coming to the morbid realization that the AZT was depleting his longevity, he enlists the help of a disgraced doctor (Griffin Dunne) and together they bring unapproved anti-viral treatments to the U.S. illegally. With what starts off as a simple economic money tapping market venture, Woodruff, along the way, comes to the realization that his efforts to help others are actually working. Enlisting the help of fellow HIV/AIDS victim Rayon (Jared Leto), the two start the Dallas Buyers Club, an alternative treatment centre for paying members that pits Woodruff in a gestating face-to-face with the FDA and other pharmaceutical companies. As the clientele grows thanks to Rayon’s introduction to the biggest HIV/AIDS demographic, homosexuals, Woodruff has a revelation that not only changes his opinion of gays but also is a deep and dark look at sexual discrimination in the Southern U.S. in the 1980’s.

Dallas Buyers Club is a film dependent on the skills of its actors physical and mental performances. Aside from McConaughey‘s drastic forty pound weight loss, supporting actor Jared Leto dropped a hefty amount of weight to play the utterly convincing transsexual, Rayon. Veering far away from Christian Bale comparisons in his eerie and grotesque turn as Trevor Reznik in Brad Anderson’s 2004 indie The Machinist, the two leads in the Dallas Buyers Club abandon physical spectacle in exchange for allowing their on-screen presence to give a candid, historical accuracy of HIV/AIDS patients, and the brutal struggle they faced against a deadly and unforgiving epidemic in the U.S. in the 80’s.

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Dallas Buyers Club is McConaughey’s best role yet. Fierce, trashy and edifying, the actor substitutes humility for profanity, glamour for wretchedness, and the light-hearted for the heavy and unapologetic. Finally, McConaughey joins a club of actors that he should be proud to be a part of.

Although the category for lead actor is going to be a full one at this year’s Academy Awards, the Supporting Actor category will have a clear winner. Unrecognizable, subtle and submerged into the role, there is no denying the raw talent Leto brings to the role of Rayon. His previous efforts as a dedicated method actor, either gaining a large amount of weight or shedding weight in the blink of an eye, Leto‘s dedication to the craft is showcased in Dallas Buyers Club, and he will surely be rewarded.

Dallas Buyers Club is a morally, heavy-hitting drama with lasting effects. Dramatizing the social discrimination of gays in the Southern U.S. and the condition of many low-income, trailer-park living American residents, the film raises the questions; whether or not HIV/AIDS and other fatal diseases are fairly treated within government fine print, and if the main goal of such large and powerful companies is actually wealth or health?

Vallee directs a story that has been rehashed in the past. Those films usually shed a small light to issues that have been explored before and become movies that will probably be forgotten many years down the road. What puts Dallas Buyers Club in a league of its own, however, are the strong performances of its two male actors.

Gritty, raw and compelling, Dallas Buyers Club is a powerfully dramatic film based on a true story. Woodruff was a simple guy, whose unfortunate condition brought forth an incredible man, whose zest for life inspires others. Ron Woodruff definitely rode the bull that is life; challenging the FDA, powerful pharmaceutical companies, as well as deeply engrained notions about society that were instilled in him since birth. Thankfully for us, Vallee, McConaughey and Leto ride the film straight to our hearts, in an overly sexualized, passionate display of what it’s like to die “with your boots on”; dirty, gritty and with a fighting chance.

Night Film Reviews Rating: 8.5/10 Stars

Is Dallas Buyers Club destined for Oscar glory? Does Jared Leto stand as the clear front-runner for Best Supporting Actor? Leave all your comments below. 

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