MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Focus Features
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner.
Having a good subject for a feature film as well a gifted cast does not necessarily guarantee a great evening at the movies.
The case in point: Dallas Buyers Club, based loosely on the true story of Ron Woodroof (McConaughey), a Texas electrician, occasion rodeo rider, and fulltime hell-raiser who contracted HIV-AIDS from unprotected heterosexual activity in 1985. Ron’s wild lifestyle included multiple sex partners and ample supplies of whisky, cocaine and marijuana, so he would seem to make an unlikely hero.
However, after receiving his death sentence (doctors gave him about 30 days to live), Ron researched his disease as well as alternative treatments and made a trip to Mexico to consult a doctor (Griffin Dunne) who was using drugs and nutritional supplements. After first using himself as a guinea pig Woodroof began to transport supplies of drugs across the border. Along the way he builds relationships with a sympathetic doctor (Garner) and her resistant supervisor (Denis O’Hare); he also finds himself developing a reluctant friendship with transgendered Rayon (Jared Leto), who becomes his business partner.
With its David vs. Goliath story of a rejected outcast taking on the government and the big pharmaceutical companies in hopes of saving lives from a terrible disease, you’d think that Dallas Buyers Club couldn’t miss. You certainly can’t fault the cast from giving it their all.
Unfortunately, the script, direction, cinematography, and editing all come up short. The language is extremely crude (especially during the first hour) and the brief sex scenes consistently depict women as willing sex objects. The script isn’t particularly intelligent or clever. Too many questions are left unanswered in the telling and too many plot points seem dependant upon coincidences. The Odd Couple pairing of Woodroof and Rayon is moving, but mostly in a calculated and sentimental way. And, truth be told, Ron Woodroof is not a particularly likeable cuss; he continues his wild ways throughout the picture.
I would still highly recommend David France’s Oscar nominated 2012 documentary How to Survive a Plague (DVD or digital rental) for a more stirring, effective, and passionate retelling of the frustrations faced by the victims of HIV-AIDS in the mid-80’s.
Two halos: An interesting sidebar story of the early days of HIV-AIDS, done rather unconvincingly.
Four pitchforks: Sex scenes, drug and alcohol abuse, pervasive swearing, and nudity.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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