Probably not the best film to see with your parents.
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, et al.
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Runtime: 117 minutes
Plot: (Taken from IMDb) In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease.
Dallas Buyer’s Club is not an easy or enjoyable film to watch, this is an emotional picture lead by a powerhouse performance from Matthew McConaughey (Ron Woodroof). Jean-Marc Vallée with Dallas Buyer’s Club has crafted a film that will stick with you for a good while, but it is not really worth watching again.
Let’s get this out of the way right at the start, for those who feel uncomfortable watching a man in drag; this is not the film for you. But for those who don’t care, this film is something unto itself and it deserves all the attention it continues to receive. For y’see Jared Leto (of Thirty Seconds to Mars Fame) plays Rayon, a man with AIDS who almost consistently dresses in drag, it’s a good performance, a brave performance but a performance that dwindles under McConaughey’s.
I feel this to be the only real issue with the film; McConaughey is so good in it that everyone else gets left behind, choking on his dust. McConaughey’s Woodroof I’ve heard is different from the Ron Woodroof the film is based upon, in that he was not so much a cowboy. This is not an issue so much, as research is needed to find out the true events and some form of bending of the truth is to be expected. However, what is true is the story, the people in the film lived and died with the disease and Dallas Buyer’s Club does a fantastic job at showing how horrible the disease really was in the 1980s.
To further embrace the image of being AIDS stricken, both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto lost a huge amount of weight, and it is scary to see how ill they look, both actors deserve credit for their commitments to the role, not only for how they both performed.
What’s particularly strong in this regard is the editing. To see someone faint on-screen is not new, but to get it so right (scarily so) is quite the feat. As someone who has fainted on occasion, it was hard to watch the fainting in this film, as it was handled so very well – I felt it each time and I couldn’t cope. Indeed, the film thrives on this emotion and damage, and this is the reason why I feel it can’t really be watched for the second of third time. All the effect of the film is used up, forced upon you in waves, I don’t think many people would want to watch it again; it’s hard enough to put yourself through it the first time.
Luckily, there are a few laughs dotted throughout the film, which came as a big surprise to me as I thought the film would be sombre and a little too pushy with its emotions, but everything is handled finely. The laughs and emotion really bring McConaughey’s performance to life and he handles every single line with a gravitas befitting to only the finest of actors past and present.
Perhaps though, I am heaping too much praise on McConaughey, as surely it was the director who weaved everything together, paced the film perfectly and gave the right balance of emotion good old fashioned storytelling. Maybe we spend too long with the lines outside of the Buyer’s Club, maybe too much emphasis is placed on how awful hospitals were (and maybe still are) in the USA, but when all is said and done, you have watched and maybe cried at a true story about a man trying to go against the system to help fight against one of the worst diseases in human history, and you can’t argue against the power of that.
Dallas Buyer’s Club is only let down by its own greatness and power. The emotional ride it puts you through will be enough only the once, so when you’re out there wondering whether to buy it on Blu-Ray or DVD, I’d stop to think whether you will ever want to put yourself through it again. Maybe you will, maybe you’ll think it’s one of the finest pieces of cinema ever made, but I know for sure, that one viewing was most definitely enough for me.
Powerful, emotional and gripping, Dallas Buyer’s Club demands your attention, unless you’ve already seen it.