Dallas Buyers Club (R16)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner6/02/2014

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 117 mins

Superbly directed, sharply written and featuring an Oscar-worthy performance from Matthew McConaughey, this is an inspiring and powerfully emotional drama that would make an excellent double bill with recent AIDS doc How To Survive A Plague.

What's it all about?
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, Dallas Buyers Club is based on a true story and stars Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, a hustling drug addict who's diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 Dallas and told he only has weeks to live. Refusing to accept his fate, Ron gets hold of some government-approved AZT, but it proves ineffectual and actually makes him feel worse, so he heads down to Mexico and discovers a stash of helpful medication that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refuses to approve.

Infuriated by the government's apparent inaction on the new medication, Ron begins importing the drugs himself and distributing them to those in need, forming a member's club (the titular Dallas Buyers Club) in order to get around the law, with members paying for membership, rather than the drugs themselves. Along the way he gets help from his transgendered assistant Rayon (Jared Leto), while his supportive doctor Eve (Jennifer Garner) turns a blind eye, though he quickly attracts the attention of dogged FDA lawyer Barkley (Michael O'Neill).

The Good
Since 2011's The Lincoln Lawyer, Matthew McConaughey has been on an extraordinary winning streak, knocking it out of the park time and again with wonderful performance after wonderful performance; needless to say, he's on typically brilliant form here as Woodroof and is highly likely to win Best Actor come Oscar time (he also lost a shocking amount of weight for the role, which always goes down well with the Academy). To be fair, his win would be well deserved, as Woodroof is a complex and not altogether likeable character, yet you can't fail to respond to his tenacity, his uncrushable spirit and his capacity for self-reinvention.

The supporting cast are equally good, particularly Jared Leto (also Oscar nominated, also likely to win) as Rayon, whose own struggles provide a powerfully emotional counter-point to Woodroof's. There's also strong work from Jennifer Garner as well as a likeable cameo from Griffin Dunne as Dr Vass, Woodroof's contact in Mexico.

The Great
The script is superb, provoking genuine anger at the government situation of the time (for further detail, see the excellent AIDS fight documentary How To Survive A Plague) and telling a truly inspirational story while never resorting to sickly sentimentality. Similarly, Vallee gets the tone of the film exactly right throughout, aided by Yves Bélanger's sun-baked cinematography and some impressively detailed 1980s production design work.

Worth seeing?
Dallas Buyers Club is a powerfully emotional, brilliantly acted and deservedly Oscar nominated drama that tells the gripping story of one of the true heroes of the fight against AIDS. Highly recommended.

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Dallas Buyers Club (R16)
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Content updated: 19/02/2020 13:21

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