REVIEW: Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Dallas Buyers Club — Focus Features
  • Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée.
  • Written by: Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack.

Academy Award-nominated movies tend to arrive in Denmark very late, sadly. Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club, which was nominated for six Oscars, didn’t open in Denmark until February of 2014. Nevertheless, when I finally got the chance to see the film at a so-called ‘early showing,’ I was very excited and had high expectations for the film. Thankfully, the film did live up to my expectations, but I was surprised by how clueless some of my fellow theatergoers were.

I saw the film at a theater room in CinemaxX Copenhagen, and it was very clear that the vocal minority absolutely did not know what film they were sitting down to watch. First of all, someone took their ten-year-old son to see the film, and, needless to say, this is absolutely not a film that I would recommend to children. Furthermore, I overheard a couple discuss their expectations as they sat down to watch the film. One person turned to his partner and asked: “What was the movie called again? Dallas, something?” And she responded calmly: “Yeah, it stars McConaughey, and it is a film about cowboys. It should be good.” I also overheard someone else talk about McConaughey’s good looks in Magic Mike. It would have been interesting to hear how they experienced this movie, which is not at all what I think they expected it to be.

Vallée’s Dallas Buyer Club stars Matthew McConaughey as a somewhat ’stereotypical’ Texan rodeo-worker named Ron Woodroof. In the film, Ron lives in a Rodeo paradise in 1985, and he very much enjoys his life, which is filled with plenty of female sexual partners, masculine friends, and gambling. But then life throws him a curveball as he is diagnosed with HIV. Initiallly, Woodroof shrugs his diagnosis off as being a simple mistake. He keeps on living the carefree life that he wants to, but life eventually catches up to him.

Soon, he finally understands that he only has a single month left to live. However, he is not willing to go out without a fight. The search for a life-saving drug sends him to the hospital yet again, and here he meets Jared Leto’s character, Rayon, a trans woman with a strong attitude. In spite of their differences, these two people learn to work together, and, together, they try to earn money and save lives at the same time, while selling drugs that have not been approved by the FDA.

The performances given by Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey in this character-driven film are flat-out amazing. They both, of course, go through incredible and shocking transformations that take you by surprise. To see both Leto and McConaughey be so thin is frightening, and it makes you understand the gravity of their predicament immediately. Although the writing may leave something to be desired, McConaughey and Leto’s performances are so good that the film is nonetheless terrific. I don’t mean to say that the writing is bad, but I wouldn’t exactly call the writing Oscar-worthy, and, furthermore, I don’t think that Jennifer Garner gets enough to do in the film. This film really works as a strong and powerful character-piece, but the look of the film is dull and I have some issues with the editing as well.

Final Grade: 8 out of 10. A strong film elevated immensely by amazing personal transformations and performances from McConaughey and Leto.

-I’m Jeffrey Rex

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