Thursday, November 28

REVIEW: Dallas Buyers Club

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
2013 Biographical Drama
1 hour 57 minutes
From Focus Features

Matthew McConaughey
Jennifer Garner
Jared Leto
Denis O'Hare
Steve Zahn
Dallas Roberts
Griffin Dunne

Bravo to Focus Features for once again not shrinking away from presenting films with gripping subjects while never forgetting to entertain at the same time.

The real-life story of Ron Woodroof and his fight to get the medicine he feels he needs to combat AIDS is the plot of this sobering drama.  The Texan was an electrician/parttime rodeo performer, straight, racist, homophobic, redneck, who was astonished (an understatement) when told by two doctors that he had contracted the virus and had about 30 days to get his affairs in order.  Despite his boozing, drugging and indiscriminate sex, he couldn't believe, wouldn't believe, that he was among the growing population to get the disease that he regarded as strictly a gay man's problem.

A hospital stay opens up two new areas for him.  One is that he shares a room with a gay transvestite, Rayon, who at first, of course, Woodroof wants nothing to do with.  Rayon's presence in Ron's life allows for some great drama between the two and also provides the film with what little humor it has.  But surprisingly, Rayon will also go on to work with Ron in the second of those newfound issues... getting the right drugs.

Ron is alarmed when he hears that AZT seems to be the order of the day but that it is only available in a clinical trial stage, which doesn't include him.  He becomes frustrated and then desperate as he learns he cannot pay for any drugs and that what is available through the FDA is not a worthy alternative.

It is then that he makes the decision to look elsewhere and after numerous trips to Mexico and also Japan he buys carloads of alternative drugs that not only ultimately buy him more time and give him a measure of hope and well-being but he begins the Dallas Buyers Club.  He becomes the gift that keeps on giving by allowing those with the disease to get his drugs free after they buy a $400 membership in the club.  Ever savvy and calculating, he is nonetheless pursued by the law who makes his life miserable.

Backing him all the way is Rayon, who becomes his assistant and certainly forces Ron to deal with his homophobia.  She keeps his life at home orderly while he flies off to obtain his drugs.  Also, one of the two doctors, though she is conflicted, sides with Ron against her coworkers, the FDA and anyone else who challenges her rough-hewed patient.

McConaughey certainly seems firmly entrenched in that southern trailer park culture and he pulls off this role with the same panache that he gave to Killer Joe (still my favorite MM role), Mud, Bernie, The Paperboy and a few others.  I know he is going to clean up for The Wolf of Wall Street but I'll tell you, this guy has found his niche and is wildly effective.  He deserves a lot of credit for that weight loss, needed to pull off this role.

Ditto Jared Leto.  I gulped seeing his emaciated frame.  An actor always performing outside the box, he performs in drag the entire film except for one heartbreaking scene when he dresses up in a man's suit to go ask his estranged father for money.  I would like to think he will cop an Oscar nomination, which he richly deserves, but those stodgy old Academy voters usually turn a puffy cheek to such performances.

The writers don't cop out.  They have neither sentimentalized Woodroof or the subject matter nor have they avoided any truths either.  The film certainly makes a good case for alternative medicine and treatment for any disease and our continued need to revamp the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

Bravo, too, to director Vallée (The Young Victoria) for bringing about a raw, gritty story with ongoing chapters and for steering an outstanding cast to award-winning performances. 

Review of Philomena

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