Dallas Buyers Club

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner
In UK Cinemas February 7th, 2014

by Joanna Orland

This film is not as great as the sum of its parts.  Although a solid and harrowing drama based on the true story of electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof and his struggle to allocate medicine to AIDS patients, there is something lacking in the film’s style, story and direction.  What is fantastic about this film is its performances from its lead actor Matthew McConaughey and its supporting actor Jared Leto, both cleaning up at awards season for their roles as Ron Woodroof and Rayon, respectively.

The story takes place in Dallas, Texas in 1985.  You can imagine the prejudice surrounding the AIDS virus at this point and place in time.  Due to his illicit and careless lifestyle, Ron Woodrof is diagnosed with AIDS and given 30 days to live.  He refuses to accept his death sentence and researches treatments and medications for AIDS patients to help escape his fate.  He learns of and experiences alternative treatments in Mexico and begins to smuggle these medicines illegally into the United States.  Along his journey he befriends transsexual AIDS patient Rayon who becomes Ron’s unlikely business partner.  Their chemistry is amazing.  To get around the US laws pertaining to these unapproved experimental drugs, together they set up a buyers club where H.I.V.-positive people pay monthly dues for access to the medicines that Ron is providing.  It is bleak, to the point, and well directed.

Matthew McConaughey lost about 40lbs in healthy weight to take on the role of AIDS patient Ron Woodroof.  His physical transformation is the least to rave about with his embodiment of Ron’s character.  This is Matthew’s grittiest performance to date, having recently taken on some serious dramatic roles including those in Mud and his scene stealing cameo in The Wolf of Wall Street.  Matthew has been on the cusp of greatness for a long time coming, and it’s wonderful to see he’s finally achieved it and getting the recognition and kudos he is long overdue.

While the outstanding performance from Matthew came as little surprise to me, what did catch me off guard was Jared Leto.  Jared is best known for his role as teen heartthrob Jordan Catalano from the 90’s hit TV series My So Called Life.  He has done excellent acting work before, including his starring role in Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem For A Dream – one of my favourite films.  More recently, he has taken time off from acting to focus on his music with his band 30 Seconds to Mars.  After a 5 year hiatus from acting, he has triumphantly returned to the big screen in the role of Rayon, his career defining performance that has seen him storm awards season, winning just about everything he is nominated for including the Golden Globe and SAG Awards for Best Supporting Actor.  The Oscar cannot be far behind.

Dallas Buyers Club is an emotional drama of an important story, but it is the performances that make it truly worth enduring.  Jared Leto outshines the bright star that is Matthew McConaughey, both more than deserving for the Best Acting accolades that have been thrust upon them this 2014 awards season.


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