Based on the true story of Ron Woodroof (played by Matthew McConaughey), Dallas Buyers Club chronicles the life of a Texas hustler in the 1980s, when he gets a surprise diagnosis of HIV, at a time when it was destroying the gay community. Unable to get any medication for his problem, because everything was still in a testing phase at that point, he takes matters into his own hands and starts smuggling medication in from other countries and selling them to other patients out of his apartment. I think McConaughey takes his shirt of in this (I’m sure it’s in his contract for most films), but I don’t recall it being a pleasant sight, because he method acted the shit out of this movie and lost a ton of weight.
You want to see a movie with a great, complete character arc? Go see this film. Woodroof’s character has legitimately great development. He goes from a homophobic cockroach of a man who just refuses to die, to a compassionate saint of a gentleman who learns to respect others because he finally realizes that everyone has a right to live. Dallas Buyers Club is half a character study of a complex dude, and half a message film about just how frustrating and ineffective the government can be sometimes. If your life is on the line, and not only is no one helping you save it, but they’re actively preventing you from *trying* to save it, the plot of the film definitely makes you think about whose decision it should be to put whatever you want in your own body if you want to. Well, except heroin, you shouldn’t be using- NO, not LSD either… You’re missing the point… If you have 30 days to live, you should be able to eat nuclear waste if you have a theory claiming it could help your situation. Also, then you might become a superhero. Then you can shoot lasers from your eyes! Or die instantly. Yeah, you’d probably die instantly. Don’t eat nuclear waste either. Hmmm… …I… …I feel like I may have gotten off track here…?
Anyway, McConaughey (who’s annoying name spelling has officially reached copy & paste levels) is the soul of the film. He’s really never been better. I like to think that there are four phases of McConaughey’s career. The first is his performance in Dazed and Confused. That performance alone deserves its own phase. Then there’s like an 8 year black period where he might as well not have existed. Contact? No thanks. The next real phase is probably the one that most people know about: his “shirtless romantic comedy” phase. Starting with The Wedding Planner, he’d go on to make some of your Aunt Veronica’s favorite comedies such as How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Failure to Launch, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Ha! Terry Bradshaw plays his dad! Great stuff. But then he wanted to be a little more serious. So he signed up for phase three… The “C’mon guys, I’m actually kind of legit, sorry for the crappy Kate Hudson movies” redemption phase. So he made Lincoln Lawyer, and Mud, and Magic Mike, and Bernie. Now were like, “OK, maybe he actually *can* act…!” So now he’s starting his most recent phase. The “give me some award nominations” phase. And boy howdy, does he deserve some awards nominations. Maybe even Emmy nominations! Have you seen the trailer for True Detective on HBO? It looks incredible! He’s also got Wolf of Wall Street and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar coming up, too. But I digress, I say we reward Mr. McConaughey for entering his newest, second-greatest phase (because don’t kid yourself, Dazed and Confused will always have his most iconic role) by letting this guy have an Oscar nomination (and possible win) for Dallas Buyers Club. He’s really awesome in it.
And if McConaughey is the soul of this movie, Jared Leto is the heart. He plays Rayon, another AIDS patient who befriends and helps Woodroof with his compassion. Without Rayon, it’s pretty unlikely that Woodroof ever gets his full character arc. And Leto’s character actually makes you feel things. It’s a gentle, subtle performance; and like most of the emotion in this movie, will make it seem like you were chopping onions while watching this movie. On that note, most of the supporting cast is worth mentioning as well. Jennifer Garner is an actress I don’t tend to care for most of the time, and that’s no exception in this film. But at least she doesn’t hurt the movie. THAT’S THE BEST COMPLIMENT I WILL GIVE YOU, GARNER. Steve Zahn has a nice little role, too. Remember Steve Zahn? And Bradford Cox plays Rayon’s lover, which is worth mentioning because he’s the lead singer of Deerhunter, and Deerhunter rules.
Dallas Buyers Club surprised me in two ways worth noting as well. First, it’s a well shot movie. It has interesting camera angles and slightly unorthodox editing techniques, and it made this movie stand out as more than just a buy-the-books melodrama type film. It has nuance when it needs to, and a lot of subtext. Even in the performances. As my friend Nate pointed out after the movie, even stuff like the fact that Woodroof is always walking hunched over and bow-legged to insist that he never quits “riding the bull” (bull riding is a symbolic theme they revisit several times in the film) is some fantastic subtlety right there.
The second thing that surprised me is that this movie had everything going in its favor to be forgettable Oscar bait, and it chose not to be. It did just enough to avoid being a crappy biopic movie, or a hammy message film, or an empty movie simply created to showcase a single acting talent *cough* LAST KING OF SCOTLAND* *COUGH *COUGH*. Dallas Buyers Club felt like a full movie. A well-rounded movie. A movie I’d watch again. You should go for the McConaughey performance, but you should stay for the FEELINGS. And when a non-BBQ-sandwich-related thing makes my heart feel pain, I know it’s doing something right.
8.5 out of 10