Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Director:  Jean-Marc Vallee
Cast:  Matthew McConaugheyJennifer GarnerJared Leto
Plot:  In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease.

Genre:  Biography / Drama
Awards:  Won 3 Oscars - Best Leading Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Makeup & Hairstyling.  Nom. for 3 Oscars - Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Makeup & Hairstyling.
Runtime:  117min
Rating:  R21 (cut!) for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, nudity and drug use.

“Welcome to the Dallas Buyers Club!”

It is the 1980s.  Aids is killing people.  But Ron Woodroof, diagnosed with HIV and given only thirty days to live, is determined to survive.  He lived longer than expected, and did some remarkable things along the way.  This is his story.  This is also Matthew McConaughey's show.  What a performance – stunning and stirring at the same time. 

It might just be his greatest performance in a career that has not been particularly noteworthy until his renaissance with films like The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), Killer Joe (2011), Magic Mike (2012), Mud (2012), and a nice 'cameo' in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).

 Also starring Jennifer Gardner as a doctor in a local hospital, and Jared Leto in drag, Dallas Buyers Club is deservedly a Best Picture nominee, and is a very solid drama in what has been a strong year for American cinema.

McConaughey and Leto might just get their first Oscars from only their first nominations.  While Leto is favourite to score a win, McConaughey's closest competitors are Leonardo DiCaprio and Chiwetel Ejiofor, both of whom gave Oscar-worthy performances in The Wolf of Wall Street and 12 Years a Slave (2013) respectively. 

Dallas Buyers Club calls to attention the devastating impact of Aids.  It is at once a story of perseverance, and a tale of one man's battle with the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).  Lives were prolonged because of the no-bull efforts of Woodroof, who finally finds meaning in life after one that has been ruined by booze, drugs and casual sex.  Woodroof seeks redemption through action;  he literally redeems the chance to live again. 

I wouldn’t consider Dallas Buyers Club an outwardly inspirational movie.  It feels too downtrodden to be so.  It inspires from within instead.  You won’t leave the theater feeling that the world is right again, but rather you resonate quietly with the human impact of the film. 

Director Jean-Marc Vallee, a quite solid filmmaker of C.R.A.Z.Y (2005) and The Young Victoria (2009), uses editing (he’s a co-editor) well, telling Woodroof’s story economically (and sometimes suspensefully) by leveraging on the ‘thirty days’ live-or-die ultimatum. 

The decision to use Shuggie Otis’ “Sweet Thang” is a masterstroke as the song captures the mood of the picture – everything from the odd friendship between McConaughey’s and Leto’s characters to the turbulent Aids-inflicted 1980s as seen through the eyes of a foul-mouthed Texan rodeo cowboy. 

Dallas Buyers Club is likely to find its way into my annual list Top 10 films of 2013.

Verdict:  A solid and important drama about the personal fight against Aids led by a stunning turn by Matthew McConaughey.


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