REVIEW: Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

  • Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée
  • Written by: Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack

Academy Award nominated movies tend to arrive in Denmark very late, sadly. The premiere of Dallas Buyers Club was only on the 6th of February 2014. With that being said, I was lucky enough to go one day earlier to an ’early showing’ at Cinemaxx in Copenhagen. My expectations were high, and I told my sister that she should expect a great movie too. The hype surrounding this movie in the States is massive, but it seems that it is nowhere near that level in little Denmark. Later I’ll explain what I mean, but first and foremost, let me announce that some spoilers will occur. You have been warned.

I have some interesting notes about the theatre experience later on, but let’s just go over the plot. Matthew McConaughey stars as a somewhat ’stereotypical’ Texan rodeo-worker, Ron Woodroof. Ron is living in a Rodeo paradise in 1985, lots of female sexual partners, great ’manly’ friends and a happy-go-lucky gambling lifestyle. Then he is hit with a stroke of realism, He is diagnosed with HIV, something he shrugs off as being a simple mistake. He keeps on living like he wants to, but life catches up to him and he finally understands that he only has a single month of living left. The search for a life-saving drug sends him to the hospital yet again, and here he meets Jared Leto’s ’Rayon’, a trans woman with a strong attitude. These two people learn to work together as they try to earn money and save lives in the process of selling drugs unapproved by the FDA.

Leto and McConaughey stand out in this character-driven story, one that is not necessarily written amazingly, but is simply executed perfectly by all-in actors, McConaughey and Leto. That is not to say that the writing is bad, but you do sometimes feel like you might be watching something else than an Academy Award nominated movie. I fear Jennifer Garner is a huge reason why. Her character is really important as the flower of Ron’s life, a doctor fighting for him and Rayon. Still, I fail to see her as a strong actor in this role, and the fact that she’s given nothing personally to get this role shines through. Her performance bothered me, for McConaughey and Leto simply were that impressive.

Cinematography-wise I would have done certain things differently, especially at the end of the movie. Also, there are some odd editing choices in this movie, and some serious time jumps that go too far. Still, as a character-focused tale, this works. I used to say something like Bale’s performance in The Machinist was the perfect example of an actor giving his all for the role, now I think McConaughey and Leto have beaten that drive in Dallas Buyers Club. To truly appreciate what they’ve given, research them; watch some of their movies. McConaughey is totally different in movies like Magic Mike and Sahara, and that transformation is unbelievable. Leto’s transformation is no less, but knowing his story it does make sense. His performances in Requiem for a Dream and Chapter 27 stand out – go watch them.

I rank this movie above The Wolf of Wall Street, and by Gravity. But these movies are graded for different reasons. One is an amazing Goodfellas-on-coke updated version for today’s audience, the other a cinematographically masterpiece. Whereas Dallas Buyers Club is proof that we still have great acting coupled with a will to give it all.

Quick notes on the theatre experience:
– The screen felt too wide.
– The theatre-go’ers had no idea what movie they were about to see. I heard the following conversation: “What was the movie called again? Dallas, something?” “Yeah, it’s with McConaughey and it’s about cowboys. It should be good.” “Yeah, he was pretty in Magic Mike!”
– Who brings a 10-year-old kid into this movie?

Final Grade: 9 out of 10. A movie about retaking life; spearheaded by amazing personal transformation for McConaughey and Leto.

-I’m Jeffrey Rex

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