McConaughey Shines Again
You know what? Part of me hates Oscar season. Why? There’s nothing here to complain about.
Let’s face it. People love a biting review and with all the great movies coming out this month, there isn’t much to dump on. The film fan in me is thrilled we’re having a great fall, but my critic side is in a bit of rut. Much to my expectation, the latest movie by director Jean-Marc Vallee (The Young Victoria, Café de Flore), is a solid entry to the Academy awards season. And yes, I’m perfectly fine reviewing this entering and well-made Matthew McConaughey vehicle.
Dallas Buyer’s Club is the third major McConaughey film this year and like Mud, he knocks it out of the park as Ron Woodroof, local cowboy and electrician. To call Ron a wildfire is an understatement: he loves to drink, shoot dope and engage in unprotected sex with a wide variety of rodeo groupies. After passing out from one of his binges, Woodroof learns he has HIV and is given thirty days to live. Unable to legally secure an experimental drug called AZT, he turns to outside sources for his meds and quickly drums up a lucrative underground business.
Like many of the big Oscar contenders this season, the draw is in the acting and McConaughey fails to disappoint. While I found his role in Mud to be a bit more nuanced, he’s a blast as the unhinged Ron Woodroof. McConaughey’s arc from homophobic man of the Texas 80’s to sympathetic sufferer feels genuine. The surrounding cast, including a great turn by newcomer Bradford Cox, nicely compliments the overarching story.
Jared Leto also impresses as Rayon a transgender AIDS patient. Even without the impressive weight loss both actors endured for the role, Leto perfectly complements McConaughey’s backwards thinking. The two make a great platonic pair and supports Woodroof’s character arc.
Unfortunately, things tail off around the two thirds mark. Much of the momentum of Ron’s search for a cure loses steam in favor of predictable plot points and heavy handed preaching. A major theme happens to be “drug companies are bad” and while this may be true enough, the constant reminders muddle the good character work. There’s also a connection between Ron and his doctor (Jennifer Garner) which is simply not believable.
As far as Oscar contenders go, Dallas Buyers Club ranks squarely on the B list. Academy voters will probably give both Leto and McConaughey Oscar nominations but the main attraction may be left wanting. Despite this, Dallas Buyers Club is a film worth watching, full of interesting characters, humorous moments and a dose of heart. It may be draining to be so positive but as long as quality work gets released, I’m a happy critic.
Score: 8 out of 10