Much like several recent Oscar-winning and nominated films of the past years (Saving Private Ryan, The Hurt Locker, Amour), Dallas Buyers Club is not a movie I’m going to RUN out and re-watch. It’s a tough movie to watch…the subject matter is harsh, the characters are sad and highly flawed, the dialogue is filled with homosexual abuses. All that said, is this still a movie you should watch? Yes. One reason: the performances. This is not to say the story is not good. It is. And the entire film on the whole is worth watching. But, the focus here should be the performances, since I feel they make this hard movie well worth watching.
The story, set in 1985 and based on a real life situation, revolves around Ron Woodroof who is a promiscuous heterosexual Texan who lives free and plays hard. He finds out he is HIV positive and, knowing next to nothing about HIV and AIDS, he at first denies his diagnosis. Then, once reality sets in, he goes about finding everything he can about HIV, especially treatments. In the mid-1980s, the only legal treatment available in the US was AZT, which many (even many doctors) did not see as the best course of treatment. Woodroof, being cunning, clever and resourceful, uses his conniving skills to begin to seek medicines from outside US borders, for himself and others.
See…a real “feel good” film. Well, yes, it is dark, but it does have its bright spots. Woodroof is given a month to live at the beginning of the film and he goes on to live seven more years. But, the true “bright spots” here are the performances by Matthew McConaughey as Woodroof and Jared Leto as pre-op transgender Rayon, who is also HIV positive and becomes Woodroof’s business partner. McConaughey, known more for his shirtless looks than for his acting prowess, really knocks it out here as Woodroof. In the beginning of the film, we see this awful, devious, nasty person. And not that he becomes all flowers and sunshine, but he grows as a man and as a human being. Much has been made of McConaughey’s weight loss for the film (he lost over 40 pounds to depict Woodroof) but really, I feel it’s his strong acting and raw, riveting, tense performance that should really be getting the attention. And, thankfully, since he is a front-runner for the Best Actor Oscar, it is!
Dallas Buyers Club: 2013, Rated R, 117 minutes, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto. Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling.