UK Release Date: 7th February 2014
Runtime: 117 minutes
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Writer: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner
Synopsis: A rodeo-loving hedonist in 1980s Texas is shocked when he is diagnosed with HIV and given only a month to live, setting up a trading group for unapproved medical treatments.
Surrounded by the buzz of potential victory at the 2014 Oscars, Dallas Buyers Club comes into cinemas with a fair amount of momentum behind it. Stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto have grabbed headlines with their respective weight losses and their stellar performances. And rightly so, because Dallas Buyers Club is a hell of a movie.
Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is a homophobic, bigoted rodeo fan in 1980s Texas. He is diagnosed with HIV and given only 30 days to live. When he is told about clinical trials by Dr Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), he bribes an official to get him access to the drugs he wants.
When his supply dries up, he imports non-approved medication from abroad with the help of transgender woman Rayon (Jared Leto) and sets up a club for others to do the same.
| "I swear it, Ray, God sure was dressin’ the wrong doll when he blessed you with a set of balls."
Dallas Buyers Club is a film that exists almost solely as a vehicle for its two incredible central performances. Ron Woodroof is the perfect role for McConaughey as the McConaissance reaches its zenith. It seems bizarre to even consider the part being played by anyone else, especially the A-list names like Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling who have been attached to the project throughout its time in development hell.
McConaughey’s performance is bigger than just the weight loss. Like a louder, less murderous, version of his chilling character in Killer Joe, Woodroof could have been a caricature. But, in the hands of Matthew McConaughey, the character is a nuanced, complex man battling with his own disbelief.
He is amply supported by an arguably better performance from Jared Leto. Absent from films for nearly five years, he completely disappears into the role of Rayon. He’s a dead cert for Best Supporting Actor at the 2014 Oscars, with good reason. Leto imbues the role with sensitivity and warmth, whilst also convincingly selling the decline of the character’s health.
| "Watch what you eat and who you eat."
But, contrary to what some reviewers have said, Dallas Buyers Club does work beyond the acting. The two headline-grabbing performances are wrapped up inside an engaging period drama, which zips along at a decent rate of knots as it deals with Woodroof’s battle against the disease slowly killing him.
It does, admittedly, fizzle out towards the end with a disappointing final act, but the two crackling performances and a great story make it one of the year’s essential dramas.
Pop or Poop?
Dallas Buyers Club is a film that deserves more credit than it is getting. Whilst the two central turns are every bit as impressive as reports suggest, the film they appear in is also an affecting, solid drama about a turbulent time in medical history.
McConaughey and Leto fully deserve the Oscars they are likely to win, and Jennifer Garner also deserves credit for a fairly thankless role.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.