Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Review: Dallas Buyers Club

World of Blackout Film Review

Dallas Buyers Club Poster

Dallas Buyers Club
Cert: 15 / 117 mins / Dir. Jean-Marc Vallée
WoB Rating: 6/7

I've got to hand it to Matthew McConaughey, he's turning out some great performances these days. Leading up Dallas Buyers Club, he portrays Ron Woodroof, a cowboy, hustler and general ne'er-do-well diagnosed with HIV in 1985, just as the condition was grabbing the headlines. Unable to receive either effective medication to alleviate the symptoms (or even reliable information on medication) through official channels, he begins to import "unapproved" drugs and supplements to help others like him, under the constant eye of the authorities.

While McConaughey plays Ron as likeable, he's very careful not to go so far as to make him outright loveable. Dealing with a Robin Hood-type figure, it would have been easier to make the movie massively sentimental; but emotional as it gets, Woodroof retains some of his sharper edges, and is far more interesting for it. Threatening to steal the show at any moment is Jared Leto as Rayon, an HIV-positive pre-op transgender woman who helps Rob find customers for the meds, and ultimately helps run the 'buyers club', all the time battling demons of her own. In any other film, Leto's would be the stand-out performance, but restrained direction and excellent performances from both Leto and McConaughey make it more of a shared stage. Jennifer Garner supports ably as a nurse torn between her professional ethics and doubting the tactics of the FDA, but I'm not sure this is the right part for her (or the part's been under-written a little, I'm not sure). Then again, there's so much emoting between Ron, his hick former-friends and family, and Rayon, that there's actually very little for Garner's Eve to add.

And yet, as fantastic as the film is, it does start to sag under its weight in the second hour. It's not that the film is too long, just that the most compelling parts are in the first two acts. The ending seems robbed of the depth it should have because it's dragged its heels in getting there. And yes, I know exactly how insensitive that sounds. I'm aware that the dramatic elements of the film are directed by the real-life events behind them, but director Vallée seems to lose the pacing once the finish-line's in sight.

Is the trailer representative of the film?

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
Despite being screened in 2.35:1, it's not especially cinematic, so it may be a night in for you. But if you want to see it, don't hesitate.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
A little.

Will I watch it again?
I doubt I'll seek it out, but I certainly won't avoid it.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There isn't.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
Why didn't the FDA and the police shut Ron down sooner? They didn't seem to pull any magic card out of the hat when they did intervene, and it's not like he was keeping it a secret?

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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