Saturday, April 26, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club: An Actors' Showcase.

Movie Review: Dallas Buyers Club

Director: Jean-Marc Vallee

Reviewed: 26 April 2014

jamesintexas rating-- ***

It is 1985, and electrician-rodeo rider Ron Woodson finds himself with the AIDS virus and given a short time to live. Angry and confused, Woodson fights back, circumvents the normal health care system, and his work leads to his unexpected survival. He works with sympathetic doctor Eve (Jennifer Garnder) and makes an unlikely alliance with a transgender woman named Rayon (Jared Leto) who also has AIDS to sell drugs that work to the people that need them the most. A homophobe himself, Ron struggles with his place in the world as his friends abandon him and he turns activist, traveling to Mexico for experimental drugs, studying the law and figuring out ways to work around it. Ron's quick thinking saved lives and gave hope to a population reeling from the virus and governmental inertia. Rayon's struggle, though not as front and center, proves even more compelling, struggling with family rejection and working with Ron, which is not always the easiest.

I guess I felt underwhelmed because there is not much interiority to Ron Woodson. He reads about the idea of a buyers club to share pharmaceuticals in the New York Times and makes some pretty adroit choices that save countless lives. Besides his traveling to different countries to meet with distributors and funny outfits to fool Customs, he seems very alone. There are some obvious, easy to hate villains here, one complete with Patch Adams nose, and another from the FDA who could not be more unlikable if he tried. But the weaknesses of the film do not undermine its overall power; the two performances by McConaughey and Leto are strong and deserving of accolades. I just do not know if the script gives either enough to do. Having not seen Leto act in many years, his work as Rayon is a revelation. McConaughey has Ron's swagger and physicality down as he out-thinks those around him. I'm all for a movie where the lead character out-thinks his opponents instead of using a gun. It is appalling to think about the intersection of profit and potentially life-saving drugs, but Dallas Buyers Club works best when it focuses on its people.

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