Friday, November 22, 2013

Matthew McConaughey & Jared Leto Make DALLAS BUYER’S CLUB Worth Joining

Now playing at an indie arthouse near you:

(Dir. Jean-Marc Vallée, 2013)

Because of his strong performances in BERNIE, KILLER JOE, MAGIC MIKE, and even THE PAPERBOY, last year I tweeted: “I think 2012 may go down in movie history as the year Matthew McConaughey started to give a shit again.”

I stand by that statement, as the man puts in some of his finest work yet here as Texan Ron Woodroof, a real-life AIDs victim who distributed alternate illegal medication through a homegrown buyer's club in the mid '80s to early '90s.

When we first meet the scrawny mustached Woodroof, we see that he's a redneck who's all about rodeo, that is, when he's not working his day job as an electrician. The Texan (as is McConaughey) is livin' it up with cheap booze and cheaper women, until one day where he gets electrocuted on the job and wakes up in hospital and is by told that he's HIV-positive.

Woodroof, furiously complaining that this is a mistake because he's not a homosexual, throws papers at his physicians (Jennifer Garner and Denis O'Hare) from their charts around the room, and angrily storms out after saying: “I got a newsflash for y'all, there's nothing out there that could kill Ron Woodroof in 30 days!”

After doing some research and having some effective flickered flashbacks about just how sordid some of his partying was with intravenous drug use and all, Woodroof accepts his predicament and goes looking for treatment. He learns through the help of a disgraced doctor in Mexico (an almost unrecognizable Griffin Dunne) that the only AIDS drug legally available at the time, AZT, is poisonous, so he begins the business of transporting unapproved anti-viral meds across the Mexican border.

Speaking of almost unrecognizable, Jared Leto, in feminine makeup and tacky '80s tramp garb, shows up as a transsexual AIDs patient named Rayon, who forms an unlikely friendship with Ron. Well, actually it's pretty likely in an indie film context like this.

Both McConaughey and Leto both put their all into their roles, including the loss of 80 pounds between them to inhabit these characters, but the narrative isn't well served by choppy plotting and one too many throwaway scenes.

In one such scene, McConaughey's Woodroof tries to masturbate using the visual stimuli of photos of woman on the walls of his makeshift hotel room office only to get pissed off at a picture of T. Rex rock star Marc Bolan that Leto's Rayon taped up.

Or another in which McConaughey spies an attractive woman in line for treatment at his office, checks if she's HIV-positive, then it cuts to him having sex with her in the bathroom. This was more amusing but just as expendable, as these scenes do nothing by confirm what we already know - our protagonist is still not queer. These bits would be better as deleted scenes on the later Blu ray/DVD release, not cluttering up the storyline.

But overall there are enough weighty moments and excellent acting (even Garner brings a touching well-placed poise I've never witnessed from her before) to satisfy most movie-goers and create some deserved award season buzz.

With a more focused less erratic screenplay, DALLAS BUYER'S CLUB could've had a lot more power, but alongside a well chosen supporting cast McConaughey and Leto's invested performances shine through the movie's muddiness.

More later... 


Dan O. said...

See this movie for the performances from both Leto and McConaughey. They're truly amazing and allow this flick to get through any sort of problems to be found whatsoever in the script. Good review Dan.

laci c said...

I don't think the sex scene between Ron and the Aids patient was to show that "he is still queer" but was to show how isolated apron was as a heterosexual. He had lost his friends, job, and complete identity whereas the homosexuals had a community. There was no one else Ron could have sex with besides another victim of HIV

Daniel Cook Johnson said...

Laci, I'm still uncertain if the scene was necessary but I think you have a very good point. Thanks for your comment.