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Dallas Buyers Club

2014-02-28 09:37
What it's about:

Based on the true story, it's 1985 and Ron Woodroof has just been diagnosed with HIV and given 30 days to live, but his determination and sense of self preservation gives him a new lease on life as he takes on the medical establishment and starts offering help – for a price, of course – to AIDS patients like himself by bringing in non-FDA-approved drugs into America from Mexico.

What we thought:

Whatever else you might say about the film, Dallas Buyer's Club features what may be the highpoint in Matthew McConaughey's career-reinventing “McConeissance”. After making a career of starring - generally sans shirt - in truly awful romantic comedies, the past couple of years have found McConaughey consciously correcting the course of his acting career and giving breathtaking performances in some truly impressive films. From playing a romantic fugitive in Mud to wowing everyone as a particularly brutal contract killer in Killer Joe, McConaughey has been knocking it out of the park on a seemingly monthly basis. Add to that some now-typically brilliant work alongside the perennially underrated Woody Harrelson in the terrifically slow-burning crime series, True Detective, and you're left with simply one of the greatest career reinventions in cinema history.

McConaughey's role in Dallas Buyers Club not only adds to that but it presents a new set of acting challenges in that he not only has to play a largely unlikable redneck as a sympathetic and compelling lead, he also has to avoid the temptation of giving in to the usual cliches of what could easily be a typically cynical Oscar-baiting role. Unsurprisingly, McConaughey conquers these challenges with virtuoso ease. His work here is subtle, multi-layered, compelling and emotionally riveting as he navigates the Woodroof's more detestable moments with great care as he makes us care about this man, even when we're very strongly disagreeing with his particular viewpoints on life. He also had to lose an ungodly amount of weight for the role but, really, that's the least impressive thing about his performance here.

While McConaughy is the main selling point of the film, though, it would be disingenuous to suggest that Dallas Buyers Club is nothing more than a great performance. Or even - when you factor in Jared Leto who came out of nowhere to deliver a seriously, unexpectedly great performance as a transvestite who becomes Woodruff's reluctant partner and even more reluctant friend and closest confident - two great performances.

It has a sharp, funny script by Craig Morten and Melisa Wallack that ensures that the film is an enjoyable, entertaining piece of cinema, despite its very heavy subject matter. Canadian Director, Jean-Marc Vallee's direction is similarly impressive as he gets out of the way and allows the performances, the characters and the story to do most of the talking. The slightly dusty visuals and sharp attention to '80s period detail does make it a decidedly cinematic experience though and it never comes even remotely close to TV-movie-of-the-week issue-tainment.

It's a really, really good movie in other words, but it doesn't quite match, say, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, 12 Years a Slave or even the unabashedly sentimental Saving Mr Banks in terms of thematic richness. It's portrayal of the US medical establishment is also a touch too cartoony – which is really saying something when you consider that the America is infamous for having a medical system that represents capitalism at its worst, as it treats human lives as secondary to the almighty American dollar.

Small flaws aside then, Dallas Buyers Club is another must-see movie to come out of this year's incredibly rich awards season. And though my pick is still Chiwetel Ejiofor for best actor for Sunday's Academy Awards, I would be more than happy if the “McConeissance” is represented by a win for McConaughey's sterling work here.

Another spectacular performance from Matthew McConaughey elevate this already good AIDS movie into something that you dare not miss.

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