Monday, 10 February 2014

Film Review: Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Writers: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto

Dallas Buyers Club is a classic example of how strong performances can elevate a film from the humdrum of instantaneous ‘watch and forget’ to a level where it will be remembered for at least a bit longer than it actually deserves.

Much has been said of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto’s commitment to their roles as men suffering from AIDS in the mid 1980s, losing drastic amounts of weight to get into character, and it shouldn’t be denied that they are both excellent here and fully deserving of their Oscar nominations. To the film’s credit there aren’t any ‘big’ moments for either actor to build to and it doesn’t ask its audience to feel overly sympathetic for either man for this isn’t a tale of redemption.

This is good because Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) is never portrayed as a likable man and the film’s decision to give us seldom few moments to connect or root for him is refreshing. He is a homophobe who believe AIDS is only something homosexuals can get (or “pole smokers” as he calls them) and his stubbornness at first to acknowledge and treat his illness (with anything other than cocaine and booze) is astounding. McConaughey brings a swagger and slimy charm to Woodroof which gives the film a few moments of levity in an otherwise oddly emotionless experience.

Herein lies the problem with Dallas Buyers Club; the lack of focus and purpose. The old saying ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’ is applicable here as the film wants to be many things but never quite hits the mark on any. The film moves from AIDS drama to FDA drug approval drama to drug smuggling to drug selling to IRS investigations to court cases and back to AIDS when the issue needs to be addressed again. The screenplay bypasses the legalities of the buyers club (where AIDS sufferers buy drugs Woodroof has imported from Mexico) and the interesting loopholes in the legal system, or the fact that he can provide help where the US medical system cannot, in favour for a broadstrokes look at a story spanning around 18 months.

Stop thinking for yourself verdict: The lengths the actors went to are deserved of a better film than this has which ultimately has very little impact on the audience other than providing another platform to show how far McConaughey has come since his rom com days. With more focus on the buyers club and the impact that had on the society around him, Woodroof’s story could have made for a very good film but as it is it’s just an average yet watchable experience which will not last long in the memory given its best Picture nomination status.

1 comment:

  1. It's impossible not to like and McConaughey's Ron is a compelling screen creation, a skinny, crazy zealot whose relentless energy seems to come from nowhere.