REVIEW: Dallas Buyers Club

If Dallas Buyers Club teaches us anything, it is that learning you have a terminal illness is a very transformative process indeed.

After discovering he is HIV Positive and has approximately 30 days to live, homophobic, beer-swigging and drug-abusing Texan Ron Woodroof gets himself clean and campaigns against Big Pharma’s dominance over the illness’ treatment, and in particular controversial drug AZT. It’s a pretty impressive turnaround for a guy who, for the first half hour of the film, appears to be more like an extra out of Deliverance than a male Erin Brockovich.

With this in mind, here at Think Outside the Box we can only presume that the film’s star Matthew McConaughey has AIDS. Why? Because a look back over the star’s acting career displays a very sudden and dramatic sea change in his film output.

Back in 2009 a spectacularly under-whelming rom-com, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, was the latest addition to a career that included the likes of Failure to Launch, The Wedding Planner and Fool’s Gold, all of which involved turning up, looking attractive and taking his shirt off.

Fast-forward to 2014 however and McConaughey, the perennial leaning on the side of a bus man, is being tipped as a serious contender to edge out Chiwetel Ejiofor for the Best Actor Oscar for his star turn as blue collar worker-turned-activist Woodroof, hot on the heels (ish) of the critically-acclaimed The Lincoln Lawyer, Killer Joe and Mud.

It is difficult to truly compare the two starkly different roles performed by McConaughey and the British 12 Years a Slave actor, however what is for sure is that the former gives an absolute tour de force, so much so that it has gotten us talking in French platitudes.

With such an impressive display it would be understandable if the supporting cast shrunk into the background, yet Jared Leto is brilliant as Woodroof’s transgender business partner Rayon, picking up a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his trouble. It is arguably the most impressive performance in the film, requiring Leto to portray sassy confidence underlined by a rampant vulnerability, compared to Woodroof’s unrelenting confidence and bravado.

Jennifer Garner has a tough job matching up to two such powerful characters and performances, but does so ably, putting in a perfectly good shift as the fairly straight-down-the-line Dr. Eve Saks.

Although a biopic that is based on a true story, Rayon and Eve Saks are fictional, however the artistic licence taken (and it is acknowledged that there is some, including in the portrayal of Woodroof himself who friends insist was never as extreme in his views as the film suggests) not once damages the film’s credibility, instead only enhancing the story where necessary, and otherwise complimenting the genuinely incredible true story.

A combination of first-class acting performances, perfect pacing and length (3 minutes shy of 2 hours), as well as cinematography that feels authentic for the period, Dallas Buyers Club would surely be a shoe-in for the Best Film Oscar any ordinary year that wasn’t so strong. Instead it will just have to make do with being a major contender.

Perhaps Adam Sandler and Vince Vaughn should consider getting themselves some AIDS too…


 

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