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.

The 1980’s. A decade famous for various reasons it was a historical hotspot: John Lennon was assassinated, Michael Jackson was King of the World, and the PG-13 rating came into effect in 1984. But in Dallas, with the AIDS virus still ongoing both in terms of the virus spreading and medicine still trying find a cure, the name of Ron Woodruff came to prominence, as did the tragic first deaths recorded in the US.

Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey) was diagnosed in 1985, and was given a month to live. Shocked by the news, but not wholly surprised given his life style of booze, drugs and unprotected sex, he is given a shimmer of hope in the form of new drug AZT. But when the drug is discovered to cause more problems than elevate them, Woodruff leaves the hospitals behind and crosses the Mexican border, where he believes alternative remedies may exist.

Director Jean-Marc Vallee (The Young Victoria) and screenwriters Melissa Wallick and Craig Borten don’t shy away from the subject matter, causing unease or discomfort. Instead they tackle the subject at hand, showing the facts and not disguising the anguish and emotion that comes from it. And with what could have been a slush, corny tale, Vallee sticks with a more realistic approach, letting the film play out with all it’s ups and down’s, producing a thoughtful tale of the power of redemption and survival, and in turn a truly remarkable piece. Sure, the film falls flat anytime McConaughey or Leto are off screen, and the likes of Jennifer Garner are left with throwaway roles, rather than memorable ones.

McConaughey, as always, is superb. But with his recent work of such high quality, that it seems a disservice to claim this as his best. So rich in talent is the Texan that the most pleasing thing is that he is consistently performing to sky-high standards in exceptional films. Mud, Killer Joe, The Lincoln Lawyer, True Detective and now DBC, it’s hard to think of an actor who not only taken so many chances to reset himself, but to have rewarded so hugely for it, both commercially and artistically.

Indeed, Dallas Buyers Club is the antithesis of the “McCoughnaissance”: stripping himself down to the bare-bones in look and feel, disappearing before our eyes before reemerging in a courageous, unwavering way, raw talent intact. It’s another spellbinder from McConaughey, and with his recent award wins for his performance, this may just be the one that the renaissance is stamped with true approval.

The true surprise of the film though is Jared Leto as Buyers Club’s other half Rayon. Again, another diverse role for an actor to sink their teeth into, it was perhaps surprising to see Leto’s name involved with this one. Somewhat on the periphery over the past few years, at least acting wise, after his other “immersive” role in Chapter 27 where he gained over 60lbs, Leto’s level of performance makes you wonder why he doesn’t revisit the well more often. Sure, he has had success with 30 Seconds to Mars, but here is a true testament to his ability. Charming, graceful and enthralling, Leto is a revelation, and fully deserves his place amongst the best supporting actors this year.

There has been a wave of very strong films in this year’s Oscar race, which could make it a hugely unpredictable evening, but Dallas Buyers Club is up there with them. Thanks in no small part to the stupendous McConaughey and Leto, who together elevate DBC to the next level. Beautifully shot, realistically told and performed to the highest of standards, Dallas Buyers Club is another stellar entry in this years Oscar hopefuls.

Flickering Myth Rating Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★

Scott Davis

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