Friday, November 15, 2013


After languishing in stupid romantic-comedy films for a decade, actor Matthew McConaughy has been on a meteoric rise back to respectability; from his fun role in MAGIC MIKE (2012), to his sadistic hit-man character in last year’s KILLER JOE, and his mysterious drifter character in this past summer’s MUD. Here in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, McConaughy continues his ascension by shedding 90 pounds to play an AIDS patient, and gives a performance to match the visual shock of a sick and dying man.
Ron Woodroof (McConaughy), is hard-partying cowboy whose freewheeling lifestyle of sex, booze and drugs is brought to a screeching halt when he is diagnosed with HIV, which eventually leads to AIDS. Unable to find help through conventional FDA-approved treatments, Ron strikes out on his own selling un-approved drugs and treatments to dying AIDS patients, aided by his new gay crossdressing friend (Jared Leto) and against the wishes of his conventional medical doctor (Jennifer Garner).

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB sets itself up as a conventional mortality tale. It’s a tale of a hard-partying, self-centered man who dramatically changes when he finds purpose. Its classic storytelling of finding life when facing death, but what makes it work is the dramatic turn the film makes around the half-way point. In the early goings, Ron is a self-centered racist homophobic prick who rips off his friends and cares for little but himself. Even after he is diagnosed with HIV, it is difficult to feel sorry for the character.
However, once Ron goes into business for himself, the film, and the character take on a different meaning. DALLAS BUYERS CLUB is based on a true story, and takes place during the early days of the AIDS epidemic in America; an America which was divided over how to combat the virus. Ron becomes an advocate for dying patients by throwing the finger (literally) to the FDA by selling un-approved drugs. More than just a drug dealer, Ron becomes a 1980’s Robin Hood, and the new purpose he has in life sells the film and the character. Director Jean-Marc Vallee keeps a brisk pace with the humor well-timed, and he creates some of the most realistic and believable characters ever seen on screen.

Matthew McConaughy turns in the performance of a lifetime. The 90-pound weight-loss is shocking to see, and he literally vanishes into the character as he is often difficult to recognize. McConaughy matches the look with a strong, tragic performance; knocking every emotion out of the park each second he is on screen…and as difficult as it is to watch, you simply cannot take your eyes off him. As good as he is, the show is nearly stolen by a crossdressed Jared Leto, and the rest of the cast which includes Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn, and Dallas Roberts are also excellent.
The finale doesn’t quite go for an emotional gut-punch but instead uses a matter-of-fact ending which is proper justice for the film. By the time the credits appear we have been on a roller-coaster ride with McConaughy’s character, making DALLAS BUYERS CLUB worth joining.



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