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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club 2013 * * * 1/2 Stars

Dallas Buyers ClubDirector: Jean Marc Vallee
Year: 2013
Rated R
Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars     Cole's Rating: * * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner

As an actor, Matthew McConaughey has given some unforgettable performances. He seems to be in every movie these days. He plugs away with romantic comedies (Fool's Gold), recycled action films (Sahara), and forgettable sports endeavors (We Are Marshall). After he hit one out of the park with 2011's The Lincoln Lawyer, I knew he was on to something. Next to that screen turn and his unrecognizable yet memorable stint in Dazed and Confused, his mark as an AIDS inflicted cowboy in Dallas Buyers Club, remains his most stripped down, most uncoiled, most brilliant performance to date. As the initially unlikable Texan Rod Woodruff, McConaughey sheds all of his McConaugheyness and makes you forget that it's actually him, but rather a roughed up character going from womanizing sex addict, to self made man, to budding entrepreneur, to full on messiah.

Now "Buyers Club" isn't something I would throw into the Academy's Best Picture pile (of which it is nominated) but it's still a solid film. The performances are the key points here and this is strictly a character study. Along with McConaughey  trading scenes with Jared Leto (playing a transvestite), you literally have blatant, thespian fireworks. Dallas Buyers Club is a deeply disturbing, momentously staked out drama that travels at a very fast clip. With the exception of an unclear yet contradictory ending, I'd say it's almost perfect.

Directed by Canadian born Jean Marc Vallee and featuring its star/co-star shedding what seems to be a huge amount of weight to prepare for their roles, Dallas Buyers Club chronicles the life of wild man Rod Woodroof (McConaughey). The year is 1985 and we see this man living on the edge, not thinking about tomorrow, and mocking the day when he has to associate with a same sex lifestyle (there is a discussion about the late actor Rock Hudson that enhances the proceedings). When Ron lands in the hospital by way of an on the job accident (electric shock), he discovers that he is HIV positive and has 30 days left to live. In denial initially and defensive, he parties like there is no tomorrow only to realize that his health is failing and that he doesn't have much time. After succumbing to befriending a nearby AIDS patient (irresponsibly drug-addicted, homosexual Rayan played by Jared Leto who gives probably one of the greatest performances in the history of film), the two of them form an unlikely friendship and build an empire based on selling illegal prescription drugs to other dying patients designed to boost their immune systems. When certain authority figures get involved (namely the food and drug administration and a conservative doctor), and their operation becomes daunting, these two renegades carry on to help the decaying breed to prolong their lives a little bit longer.

With a series of individually coarse scenes, Dallas Buyers Club (based on a long overdue realization of a true story) fails to possess a righteous sense of time and place (with the exception of some recognizable 1980's hair styles) but it does hit hard. Its fast paced yet sporadic narrative, explains to us that the director wanted to tell a grand true story without catering to how accurate the mundane setting is. He doesn't shoot things in an elaborate way and he doesn't concentrate on outside atmospherics. However, what's on screen washes over you with a visible dirtiness, and a portrayal of a forbidden lifestyle that grabs you from inside.

All in all, this is a powerful film that unfortunately ends abruptly while contradicting the effects of the drug Azt (which I thought was the answer to this horrible disease). Nevertheless, it stills draws you in though with its powerful acting stints coupled with the nervous yet confident desperation of its main character. "Buyers Club" is relevant. And you might look away at times only to "buy" into its lasting, exhaustively bold impression.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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