This week we caught the last major Oscar movie of the season, Dallas Buyers Club (R).
Matthew McConaughey stars as Ron Woodroof, an HIV positive who skirts the law to bring unapproved treatment to HIV positive patients in 1980s Dallas. Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner costar, Jean-Marc Vallee directs.
Ryan: Part character study part historical drama, Dallas Buyers Club is a movie worth watching. It’s not a great film and I wouldn’t classify it as a Best Picture contender. But it’s earnest and showcases two noteworthy performances. The most striking aspect of the movie — and this is greatly showcased in McConaughey’s performance — is that a real life “Marlboro Man” became a champion for the rights of people suffering from the HIV virus and AIDS—specifically at a time when many of those victims were disenfranchised from general society. From redneck rodeo hustler to tolerant crusader for the sick, Ron Woodruf’s personal journey is a motivating and noteworthy story.
Andy: Dallas Buyers Club comes at an interesting and potentially important moment in our history. While HIV/AIDS is still a devastating disease in our culture, it no longer holds the urgency that it did from the mid- ‘80s to the mid- ‘90s. This film forces us to look at the magnitude of the disease during that time period. While this is part of what makes the film important, it is also one of the easiest criticisms. The film plays in a very nostalgic way, which makes it appear as if the AIDS epidemic were an isolated moment in history, rather than an ongoing social problem.
Ryan: Mathew McConaughey has made many forgettable Hollywood features — some I’ve seen and some I haven’t (don’t need too). But I’ve always thought if given the right material he could be much more than a pretty face. With Dallas Buyer’s Club he has finally given that meaningful performance. He might not be my own odds-on favorite to win the Best Actor statue in a couple of weeks, but his nomination is much deserved as he gives an exceptional performance as an ordinary man who ends up doing extraordinary things. The nuances of showing a man that becomes selfless instead of selfish is not an easy trick to pull off, but McConaughey nails it.
Andy: While the film does attack important issues and it put together in a way that is sometimes highly stylized, there is no question that this movie is all about the performances. Specifically, it is all about McConaughey and Leto.
McConaughey, who has thrived in the last few years by embracing his creepiness, puts forth the performance of his career. The early indication is that he is likely to win best actor, and watching the performance makes it easy to see why. Perhaps most startling is just how transcendent he is. McConaughey is one of those actors who has always been a movie star, but not really a great actor. That is to say, you always feel like you are watching McConaughey perform, rather than watching the character’s struggles. In this film, it is easy to forget about McConaughey, as you are definitely watching Ron Woodroof and his evolution. Jared Leto is similarly impressive with his performance.
Dallas Buyers Club has some major shortcomings in tone and plot, but the performances and general message elevate the film to a final grade of B.