Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Dallas Buyers Club (2013) - ★★★★

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Writers: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Denis O'Hare, Steve Zahn, Michael O'Neill, Griffin Dunne

Dallas Buyers Club is an absolutely terrific film. I'm just in awe of Matthew McConaughey right now. He has surprised the hell out of me, delivering his career best performance as a man dying of AIDS. Jared Leto gave a phenomenal come-back performance as a transexual who is also dying from the disease. Jean-Marc Vallée doesn't handle the subject delicately. The transformation of the character's is truly upsetting, and the lack of help for those suffering through the disease almost defies belief. While the film delves into important issues of corruption and prejudice, what makes it so damn great is the fully realised performances by Leto and McConaughey. They both became their characters, body and soul. They are the reason this is a great film.

This is the story of Ron Woodrof (McConaughey), an electrician and former bull-rider. When he wakes up in a hospital, he finds out that he contracted HIV, and only has 30 days to left to live. They won't let him try a trial drug called ATZ, so he looks elsewhere for help. Ron finds his way to Mexico, where he finds plenty of medication that can help others like him. Thus, he starts up The Dallas Buyers Club, where he sells membership fees to people in exchange for the medication they need to survive. The film also tackles the corruption of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), which prevented the importation of drugs which could possibly help patients, all for a company that wanted their drug, ATZ, to be the only product on the market.

I can't tell you how much this story means to me. The mid 1980s to early 1990s were rampant with scare campaigns and false truths about homosexuality and HIV. What really strikes dear to my heart is the stories of the men and women who suffered from discrimination, becoming pariah's in their own communities. Dallas Buyers Club sheds some light on those dark times, and shows a touching human side to the people suffering through all of it. What really sticks in my mind about this movie is the way it showed the world that there was little to no help for so many who had the virus. I couldn't imagine what a person would do if they contracted the virus, and had no money or insurance to pay for comfort and advice, let alone the little treatment that was available at the time. This film has the power to make people think about what these human beings went through, making it one of the most important films of recent years.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw how thin Matthew McConaughey was. He looked older, weathered, and truly ill. I've never really seen such dedication from an actor to a movie role. Well, not since Christian Bale and his many transformations. McConaughey was so... vulnerable in this film. I just wanted to give him a hug. In the beginning he played a homophobic, stubborn fool that drinks, does drugs, and has copious amounts of unprotected sex. The transformation of his personality is truly phenomenal. You can pinpoint the very moment where his views began to broaden, which was when he first met Rayon (Jared Leto). As time went on, you could feel the very passion emanate from Ron Woodrof; the passion to help those who have no hope. Through all the fiery moments and charming smiles, McConaughey was truly masterful when by himself. All alone with his thoughts, McConaughey showed a man that at times feels broken and alone. Ron Woodrof is a man with a strong-will to make a change, who also has to fight his illness every step of the way. I cannot get over how spectacular this performance is. I would be proud to give an Oscar to McConaughey for this role.

Jared Leto has been one of my personal favourite actors for years. He's always impressed me, and I've followed his career from a young age. I can honestly say, his role as Rayon is the most moving, masterful performance he has ever given. The softness in his voice, the mannerisms of his hands, and that proud walk of his made him a very convincing transexual to me. The key to his character is this. It's all in his eyes. I could sense vulnerability in them every step of the way. He was very charming, quite funny, and a lovely companion when sober. It always seemed like there was something eating at him though. Maybe it could have been his issues with his family, or maybe it is that he was scared of dying. Leto brought so much depth into this role. I do wish they had done more with his character though. There was so much ground left unexplored with Rayon, but I'm still very happy with what they did with him.

As for Jennifer Garner, she gave a solid performance as a doctor who was emotionally invested in Ron and Rayon. I wasn't entirely sold on her whole 'doctor' persona, but I can't deny that she did a brilliant job playing off of McConaughey and Leto. She had a lovely chemistry with them. Her moments of melancholy reflection were touching in their own way. Rayon was a friend of hers from high school I believe, which makes his impending death that much harder to face. All in all, I don't think she was right for the part, but she was as good as she possibly could be. I might also add that Denis O'Hare played the corrupt doctor she worked with. O'Hare is one of the best actors at playing bad guys. He just has a face you want to punch. It worked really well for this movie.

The cinematography by Yves Belanger perfectly suited the story. I think some of the most memorable cinematic moments were when Ron would hear a deafening sharp-tone, and lose concentration. I have to say, it was the soundtrack that truly impressed me though. There are some really nice, unknown songs played throughout Dallas Buyers Club that are worth checking out on Youtube. Above all else, there was a piano score that completely touched my soul. It was composed by Alexandra Streliski. Unfortunately the score was not written for the film, so it cannot be in contention for an Oscar. If it had been in contention, I would have given it the award in a heart-beat. The music Streliski composed is what I imagine loneliness and vulnerability to sound like. It was indescribably beautiful.

Dallas Buyers Club did have its faults, but it had way too many positives which outweigh them. I'm over the moon with this stunning movie. I'll never forget the performances, nor will I forget that haunting score by Streliski. Jean-Marc Vallée created a stunning film that truly highlights the power of human connection, and the good will of one man. I absolutely loved it. 


  1. Again, I couldn't agree more! :) You should also check out the new HBO show True Detective. McConaughey is on a roll!

  2. Hoping to see this durng the week, what with MattMac and Leto snagging all kinds fo glory for their performances. Can't wait!!!

    1. They thoroughly deserve all the recognition they're getting too!