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Dallas Buyers Club




Released: 2014

Directed By: Jean-Marc Vallee

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto

Certificate: 12A

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

Once consistently exposed to the tedium of Kate Hudson-starring rom-coms, Matthew McConaughey’s career renaissance with his chest-pounding charisma intact in the likes of ‘Killer Joe’ and ‘Magic Mike’, has prompted dramatic alterations in opinion towards the actor. Rather like the general attitude towards homosexuality. In a time where marriage and the fight for equal rights in the LGBT community are now primetime topics, ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ transports us back to the height of the 1980’s AIDS epidemic, where narrow-minded beliefs and panic engulfed the US landscape.

On first impressions, Texan cowboy Ron Woodruff (McConaughey) is a tough protagonist to root for. Rodeo enthusiast. Serial womaniser/drinker and relentless homophobe. He may have been an electrician by trade yet in the year 1985, he received a shock treatment of an unexpected and frightening sort. Taking little notice of his worrisome skeletal frame despite ‘shutting down’, Woodruff is ‘greeted’ with the confirmation he has tested positive for the HIV virus.

Defiant (‘Nothing can kill Ron Woodruff in 30 days!’) and with only the awareness of newspaper coverage covering actor Rock Hudson’s similar battle, boasting little knowledge about the symptoms of his condition, his sudden fight to prolong his life sparks a fierce berating of the country’s authorities and their policies towards drugs. Despite the offensive traits of his personality, he soon finds himself garnering unlikely ‘allies’ in his plight, in the form of transgender charmer Rayon (Jared Leto) and sympathetic doctor Eve played by Jennifer Garner.

When played as a empathetic ‘triumph over adversity’ piece, ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ is at its most effective and affecting. Director Marc Vallee’s restrained direction juxtaposes brilliantly with the colourful on-screen forces, allowing the character trajectories to reach their plausible peak without manipulative and cheap sentimentality.

Slimming down in stark fashion for the role, Mcconaughey’s terrific portrayal of Ron Woodruff fizzles with the rousing charisma he’s renowned for, intertwined with deft complexity that catches his audience off-guard in compelling fashion. Fresh from 30 second trips to Mars and equally impressive, is Jared Leto’s heartfelt/breaking and sincere return to cinema as Rayon carving out an unashamedly odd yet wonderful double act with McConaughey.

The handling of the ‘opposition’ is where the film falters somewhat. Woodruff’s country hopping to efficiently run the ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ may capture the scale of the HIV breakout, yet like the pamphlets he distributes to fellow sufferers, Vallee’s approach is misguided in its lightweight nature. Suggestion of foul play within the medical profession along with the tarnishing depiction of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) disgrace the screen, but are presented in too broad a fashion to be incisively dissected.

Half hearted as a political piece. Emotionally charged when the lens is firmly placed on agonising hardships. ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ for its glaring flaws, fittingly wins you over through the sheer force of will and heart displayed in its stunning central performances.

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