Dallas Buyers Club (2013) Directed Jean-Marc Vallée. With Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Steve Zahn and Jennifer Garner.
I’ve read and heard it said of Jean-Marc Vallée Dallas Buyers Club, that it is a film defined by its performances, above than anything else. In my opinion, that’s doing a great disservice to what is a film that is visually, beautifully crafted, but that also boasts a perfectly fleshed-out screenplay by Craig Borton and Melisa Wallack.
Set in 1985, the film tells the ‘inspired by true events’ story of Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey) a charismatic, but casually belligerent man, who upon being diagnosed with the HIV virus, enters a world previously unknown to him, which sets about an unexpected transformation.
First of all, in the central role, McConaughey is every bit as mesmerising as you’d expect an actor in an Academy Award winning performance to be. His commitment to the role, in losing reportedly 40lb in weight, is at at first visually striking, but it is his ability to become Ron, beyond the surface which really sets him apart. Indeed, it’s one of those truly great turns, that no matter how many superlatives you throw at it, they’ll all stick. But like any great film, this isn’t a film of just one towering performance, for supporting McConaughey is Jared Leto in an equally eye-catching, yet utterly convincing portrayal of trans woman, Rayon. Thrown together through circumstance, and a mutual need for each other’s various life skills, the pair make for an at once hilarious, yet touching screen duo.
How much, fact for fact, is translated truthfully into the narrative is unclear, but what is crystal clear is the message that the film conveys, yet never in an overly sentimental way, about the importance of treating human beings with respect and care first, and recognising sexuality as mere dressing for who someone really is. In a sense, Dallas Buyers Club feels like an important film. Despite the grim situations the characters find themselves in, the film makes positive, life affirming statements, in amongst the grief. 5/5