Film Review: Dallas Buyer’s Club

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Plot: Based on a true story in the mid 1980’s. After Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is diagnosed with HIV, he seeks out alternative medicine. Along with a transgender AIDS patient (Jared Leto), the two begin selling these illegal drugs, bringing on the wrath of the Food and Drug Administration.

I don’t know if Matthew McConaughey went on some kind of religious sabbatical, or maybe he’s always been this talented and just kept getting sub-par roles, but the year of Matthew McConaughey continues. Dallas Buyers Club is a powerful movie, with great performances from Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto, but the man of the hour is McConaughey, who is an absolute lock to receive a Best Actor nomination.

McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, a ladies man drugged out electrician, who takes bull riding bets on the side. His entire life turns upside down when he is diagnosed with HIV. Woodroof is obviously sympathetic after being diagnosed, but honestly, the way the character is written, Ron is sort of unlikable. One of the most intriguing scenes is when he’s told by doctors that he has HIV, but Ron actually gets more bent out of shape at being asked about homosexual activity. McConaughey’s performance makes the character likable despite some of his homophobic comments, and certainly as the character grows throughout the film, you begin to like him regardless.

McConaughey’s performance is simply great all the way through. There isn’t one second where you aren’t fascinated whenever he’s on screen. The first half especially gives him plenty of opportunity to shine, as he reads about AIDS at a local library, or when he pulls over on a dirt road and nearly loses it. But when he has to act against other actors, he’s just as compelling. There’s plenty of great movie moments where Ron walks into an FDA seminar and just absolutely berates them. My favorite moment in the entire film though is when Ron goes to his favorite watering hole and confronts all his buddies after they’ve learned he’s got HIV…a remarkable scene. McConaughey is especially brilliant whenever on screen with Jared Leto, a transgender character who also gives one hell of a performance.

The relationship between Ron and Rayon (Leto) is probably one of the strongest elements to the entire film. It’s funny, tense, and at times even heartbreaking. They have great banter throughout, and Leto absolutely loses himself in this character. I won’t guarantee a nomination for Leto, but it’s pretty damn likely.

This is also one of the best performances of Jennifer Garner’s career, one of the doctors who diagnoses Ron and begins to develop a relationship with him. I’ve always liked Jennifer Garner, but she never gets the right roles. She’s solid all the way through, but there’s one scene in particular where she really gets to steal the show. The only other actor of note is Steve Zahn, who plays a very small part here, but he’s a guy I’ve also liked for a while, and thought he added a lot whenever he popped up.

The only criticism I really have is that once Ron starts the actual Dallas Buyers Club, the movie slows up. While there were plenty of riveting scenes between Ron and Rayon, it did meander a lot to the point where I started to lose interest just a bit, but it would always bring me back.

This is just an all around great movie. The music choices fit the tone perfectly, and the director (Jean-Marc Vallee) does a great job of adding in all these little nuances. One of the biggest aspects to the plot is that Ron is given thirty days to live, so the movie always let’s you know what day we’re on, and without spoiling too much, it becomes a very effective device. Aside from the directing and supporting roles, this is the Matthew McConaughey show. He lost a lot of weight for this movie, and I have to admit, it’s hard to watch him in some of these scenes, but every single piece of his performance is just stellar, making Dallas Buyers Club a must see.

Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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