Movie Review – Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Dallas Buyers Club, 2013.

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée.
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn, Dallas Roberts, Kevin Rankin, Denis O’Hare, Juliet Reeve and Griffin Dunne.


In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease.

Like all my best cinematic experiences, ignorance is bliss. Before taking my seat to enjoy Jean-Marc Vallée’s much anticipated Dallas Buyers Club, all I knew was a very brief cast list and the outlined subject matter, AIDS. I knew no intricacies. What I experienced was delightfully unexpected. Dallas Buyers Club is arguably, a modern classic, a film that tackles a complex subject matter with bravery, and showcases some of the finest acting in recent cinema.

Dallas Buyers Club is set, you guessed it, in Dallas – 1985 – during the AIDS epidemic. Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is the epitome of a stereotypical ‘redneck’ or, deep Southerner; deeply prejudice in views and living a life consisting of heavy drug use and casual, unprotected sex. On the discovery that he is HIV positive, Woodroof realises the value of time, as the doctors say he has 30 days to live. In a natural panic, he researches on the illness and discovers that the newly created drug AZT, has shown significant signs of effectiveness. After locating the valuable drug, still in its clinical stage, Ron begins to distribute it out to other HIV positive patients across America. With the assistance of Rayon (Jared Leto), a flamboyant transsexual sufferer of the disease, the pair form the Dallas Buyers Club, twisting the pharmaceutical system, and in doing so saving thousands of lives across America.

Vallée has produced a truly special piece of work here. The tone is haunting; bleak yet hopeful, a strange mix of decay and positivity.  What raises Dallas Buyers Club above the competition is the truly exceptional work of Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey, who both produce career defining performances here. They both lost mass amounts of weight to portray the physical deterioration that AIDS creates – McConaughey lost 47 pounds and Leto lost 30, which is incredible commitment. These two actors become almost unrecognisable at points, especially Leto, who outshines himself as Rayon. The emotional complexity needed to perform these roles is extreme, and requires immense sensitivity and empathy, which both McConaughey and Leto do so with immense profundity and conviction in two groundbreaking performances. If it wasn’t for Chiwetel Ejiofor and 12 Years a Slave, McConaughey would be leading the pack for Best Actor in the upcoming Oscars.  Thankfully, they have both received nominations which is just acclaim. For once, praise the Academy.

Despite the positives however, Dallas Buyers Club falls back on some areas. Jennifer Garner is for me miscast as Doctor Eve, as I feel she is slightly too perfect in mannerisms and appearance for this ultimately gritty picture. This is arguable, of course, but I simply felt her character became weak under her lead. Another victim is the mid section of the film. Similarly to David O. Russell’s American Hustle, this lost its edge, as it became a standard, obvious narrative which the opening edged away from. This all being said, these are not detrimental problems to the film, as McConaughey and Leto more than make up for any minor problems.

Dallas Buyers Club is truly a beautiful piece. AIDS is a subject rarely touched upon in cinema, and this is a refreshing depiction to the pandemic that plagued the latter end of the 20th century. My advice: let Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey’s performances immerse you, as they are mesmerising. Congratulations on the deserved Oscar nominations. If it wasn’t for 12 Years a Slave, this would have been a true contender. 

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

Jordan Schwarzenberger is a young writer from North London, UK. Follow him on twitter @jordanerschwarz and visit his website lostVHS.

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