UK RELEASE: February 7th 2014
From the director of ‘The Young Victoria’ and ‘C.R.A.Z.Y’ (where it shares this films moral message) comes ‘DALLAS BUYERS CLUB’ a contender for this year’s ‘Best Picture’ Oscar at the Academy Awards. Set during the 1970’s, this film tells to story of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey – in a role which is and has sent him into the stratosphere), being given the news he has AIDS. Stricken of by his friends as being gay, and having no help from a new drug on the market, Woodroff (along with a transsexual Jared Leto) start the Dallas Buyers Club, which imports and sells drugs illegally to people suffering the same illness. It is only fitting a film like this comes along, when you have real world issues reflected in its content. The look at health boards and the rise of AIDS are running riff at the minute often being a focus of several international news platforms.
This content does make the film certainly become more attractive for Academy voters, with it informing audiences and educating them about sexuality and discrimination, but also the whole idea of Ron Woodroof’s journey of self discovery he undergoes, with help of a token odd couple vibe he makes with Jared Leto. There is also the relationship he can never have but wants with Jennifer Garner (doing a lot with a limiting role and yes is a reunion from ‘Ghosts of Girlfriends Past’),while undergoing a conventional Robin Hood-style defining the authority, giving to the poor mentality. This however should not be seen as a disadvantage to the film as it does not come across wanting to be primarily accustomed to Academy voters.
The real advantage to this film is the calculated, confident and convincing performance from Matthew McConaughey, who having lost weight to Christian Bale in ‘The Machinist’ standards, brings something which arguably is what all of this ‘McConasense’ career reinvention has been working up to, and will set (as mensioned before)him into the stratosphere. I think the remarkable thing about his performance here is more the fact he has allowed and is able to show, his body just decompose like that on screen, its more something out of a David Cronenberg body horror with how his body looks. What I also like is the fact that throughout the film his character remains a jackass from beginning to end, but he is able to bring a calculated obnoxious centre which you care about, while still being that person. To me that is the remarkable bit, as him losing weight is nothing more than a dressing which should be the only defining part of his performance. And to do this on screen it certainly leaves you thinking come Oscar night, the ‘Best Actor’ award is between him and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
There is also some interesting story telling techniques employed in the narrative structure of the film which I like also. The first half of the picture has a very choppy rhythm in its nature, never allowing you as a audience member to ‘relax’, but it makes sense in doing this to help convey Woodroof’s never relenting cycles of praying and denial. Some of this does become undone, especially in the second half when the film shifts awkwardly from being personal into something political, meaning not only does it lose a lot of Woodrow’s personal fears and realisation of having AIDS, but also losing some of the films dramatic fire. This is because it allows itself to make the political point on the US healthcare system which is in the news media a lot these days over the ‘Obamacare’ issue. This is seen with Woodrow battling drug companies, doctors and politicians (the FDA are constantly portrayed as being the enemy). Some people might have an issue with the idea its presented as a snapshot of someone with the condition. Still thought it is refreshing to see it being a long way from ‘Philadelphia’ then what you might expect and there is some interesting bull metaphor interwoven over the scenes of sex, bring a almost grotesque vibe to the act, which could spread AIDS. I also like the use of music being actually in the world the characters inhabit, playing in the background over a radio and such.
The film is arguably not as good as the central performances from McConaughey or Leto, but this doesn’t mean it’s crap. I find it also intresting how this film (like ‘Don Jon’) has been co-funded by Voltage Pictures. A highly recommendable watch and certainly something which makes you think what McConaughey could do with Nolan come ‘Interstellar’s release in November.