Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Screenplay: Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Denis O’Hare, and Steve Zahn.
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 117 min.
A clear Oscar contender, Dallas Buyers Club continues Matthew McConaughey’s recent streak of monumental roles. A moving film that focuses on the AIDS epidemic during the late 1980’s, it manages to captivate if only moderately. While it delivers some of the best performances in years from McConaughey and costar Jared Leto, it lacks a clear focus, and struggles with pacing. Though it is compelling, it doesn’t manage to carry its own weight.
Though not a biopic, the story centers on antihero Ron Woodroof. A blue collar Texan electrician, misogynist, cowboy, homophobe, and drug addict, Woodroof finds out he’s become HIV positive. Likely due to one of his many conquests, he is thrust into a world he’d never imagined he’d become a part of. Given the looming prognosis of 30 days to live, he refuses to admit defeat. “Sorry, lady,” he shouts to his physician, Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), “but I prefer to die with my boots on.” Venturing across the border for healthier alternative medication to then toxic AZT, he proceeded to bring them back to Texas in order to help others like him: the sick and dying without a shot in hell.
It’s an excellent film, but Dallas Buyers Club doesn’t seem to have a clear point. Ron Woodroof’s story is a compelling one, but this isn’t a biopic. It touches on the toxicity of AZT, the first U.S. Government approved HIV treatment, but only as a plot device. Similarly, it introduces the drug abuse and latent homophobia that ran rampant when AIDS became an epidemic, but never forms a dialogue on the matter. All of these factors come together to form a touching, and entertaining film that winds up blindly trying to hit a strong point, and ultimately missing. Would you like to know more…?