WRITTEN BY: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack
DIRECTED BY: Jean-Marc Vallée
STARRING: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Denis O'Hare
RATING: 4 stars
Dallas Buyers Club is based on an interesting and sad true story about the AIDS crisis of the mid-1980s following widespread realisation about the disease with the death of screen legend Rock Hudson. After reading up on the facts, it is clear there is quite a bit of artistic license taken with the story. Regardless, its portrayal of the epidemic and the fear people had towards homosexuals is still fascinating.
Set in 1985, Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is a homophobic electrician and rodeo living in Texas, who enjoys care-free sex, alcohol and drugs. But when a work accident lands him in hospital, doctors (Jennifer Garner and Denis O'Hare) conduct a blood test that reveals Woodroof is HIV positive and has just one month to live. At first, Woodroof is in denial about his fate but soon realises he will have to fight to survive the disease. Unhappy with his treatment at the hospital, Woodroof meets transsexual drug addict Rayon (Jared Leto) and the pair create a "club" for people with HIV and AIDS to get access to drugs from overseas that are not approved by the US government.
Despite about a decade of cheesy romantic comedies, I had always remembered that underneath all that muscle, McConaughey could actually act. Some of his earlier films, such as A Time To Kill and Amistad, certainly showed that and I have championed the so-called McConaissance with everyone else. But, is McConaughey really going to win an Oscar for losing about 25kg? As good as he was in Dallas Buyers Club, he was better in recent films like Mud and The Paperboy. I still think the Oscar should go to Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street. That being said, McConaughey was still very good in this film and his character's transformation from being homophobic to basically a humanitarian is fascinating.
Leto on the other hand deserves every award he has been getting for his portrayal of Rayon, who was not actually a real person in Woodroof's life. He seems to be more of a mix of a few people who Woodroof knew. I expect Leto will score an Oscar for his performance, and rightly so. The confronting scene with his father is especially moving. Garner is also solid in another role that is a combination of a few real life people. Although any actress really could have played the character, it is good to see Garner acting again and in a serious role. Denis O'Hare is also very good as a fellow doctor at the hospital who Woodroof directs a lot of his anger towards.
Dallas Buyers Club works well because it addresses a very serious issue through a very personal story about the will to live.