Dallas Buyers Club is about the real-life Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof, whose free-wheeling life was overturned in 1985 when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. These were the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and the U.S. was divided over how to combat the virus. Ron, now shunned and ostracized by many of...more
Dallas Buyers Club is about the real-life Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof, whose free-wheeling life was overturned in 1985 when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. These were the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and the U.S. was divided over how to combat the virus. Ron, now shunned and ostracized by many of his old friends, and bereft of government-approved effective medicines, decided to take matters in his own hands, tracking down alternative treatments from all over the world by means both legal and illegal. Bypassing the establishment, the entrepreneurial Woodroof joined forces with an unlikely band of renegades and outcasts - who he once would have shunned - and established a hugely successful “buyers’ club.” Their shared struggle for dignity and acceptance is a uniquely American story of the transformative power of resilience. less
“Dallas Buyers Club is an important and inspiring tale with two stellar performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. Don't miss it!”
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Every year there are certain Oscar nominees that are mainly performance-driven films. You take the performances out and you have nothing. More than 80 per cent of these films are based on a true story. Now, you have performances and a human concern. Basically, now you have something. Dallas Buyers Club falls in both categories. As a film, it is perfectly average film with top-notch performances. As a true story on film, it is again perfectly average and as by-the-numbers as it can get.
I’m not averse to such films but I’m not exactly in love with them. Let me put it this way; these are not films. To me, they are actor’s showcases. A film is not just about performances; it’s about the story. It is not even what it is about, but how it is about it, what it says about it and what it feels about it. If I come out of the theater saying “This guy acted so well and that’s it”, it’s a cinematic failure of sorts. While this film is an important AIDS awareness reel, I did come out saying just that. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto act well but that’s about it.
Matthew McConaughey is one of those Hollywood actors who fail to dazzle me, even when they are at their best. The last time I actually noticed him as an actor who could be taken seriously was when I saw Bernie and Magic Mike, a couple of years back. The second instance is when I saw Dallas Buyers Club and the third is the currently revered television show – True Detective. While, I’m not particularly interested in his brand of acting, his transformation from a star to an actor is commendable. The McConaissance has arrived and it will most likely culminate into Oscar glory this weekend. Personally, there were much better lead performances this year but the Oscars have their own way of going about these things.
McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, a rodeo-loving Texan who gets diagnosed with HIV and is informed by doctors he has only 30 days to live. Ron refuses to accept his death sentence. He soon learns of alternative treatments and begins smuggling them into the USA. In the 80s, HIV was mostly associated with homosexual men. This aspect of the film is effectively handled. The way Ron’s friends react to him and the way he reacts to Rayon (Jared Leto) go through an arc of their own. This is mostly due to the best performance in the film. After taking a long break from films to pursue his music career, this is not just a great comeback but also a performance of a lifetime. Whenever Jared Leto is on screen, this film rises above the average. Another actor who got majorly sidelined is Jennifer Garner. Maybe if she lost weight or played a man she would be noticed.
The main blemish is the screenplay. It takes the clichéd road more than it should. It revels in conventionality, even when the film is about a controversial and important subject. The characters become increasingly black and white. In fact, it’s easier to guilt yourself into liking this film more than you should at the risk of being labeled homophobic or worse, a defeatist. Maybe even inhuman. To counter that, you can always praise Philadelphia (1993), a film with better performances and assured storytelling.
A film like this one is admired at the time it releases. Like Erin Brokovich (2000) or The Blind Side (2009). You remember these films for the performances by the lead actors and then you wonder: that got nominated for Best Picture? Over films like Almost Famous (2000) or Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)? Now that the Academy has increased the Best Picture nominees from 5 to anything between 5-10, films like these get the opportunity to shine. Philadelphia missed out on the big five.
Ron Woodroof isn’t exactly a figure known to many but his story is indeed one that deserves to be told. Jean-Marc Vallée tells the story in a manner more pedestrian than innovative. Dallas Buyers Club is the film that is considered more than the sum of its parts due to what it’s about and the effort of the actors behind it. Not because, it’s a film to behold. I asked myself two questions before hesitantly deciding to give this film an underwhelming review. Will I recommend this film to people? The answer is no. Those who like true stories would watch it anyhow but to me this story did not ring true.