Dallas Buyers Club reviews

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Re: Dallas Buyers Club reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Feb 03, 2014 5:31 am

I don't know what to say about this one. I can't say that it's a bad movie. I can't certainly say that it's a badly acted one. What I can say - but this is probably too subjective - is that I was never really interested. I don't know, I guess I need more from a movie - more subtext, for example (and except maybe the main character, all the others - including the transvestite-with-a-golden-heart - lack a real subtext). Or a less linear story (after 20 minutes the whole plot is actually over, and even the ending feels uncertain, unsolved).
As far as movies-about-AIDS go, it's definitely better than the old Philadelphia - yet it's interesting that Americans (or at least American mainstream films) still have to be so cautious, even today, on this subject. The main character's heterosexuality is so aggressively repeated, and in such obvious ways, that I wondered - do straight Americans in the audience REALLY need this to identify with him? Are they so... basic? And sorry, for once I will defend Americans - my answer is no. Not those living in the cities I have visited at least. The hero's heterosexuality becomes a cliche - not an especially offending cliche maybe but still a cliche (and the unnecessary female character is there to reinforce it).
All this is done, of course, for officially good reasons - he will change with time. (Had the movie been just a bit more trashy, it would have fallen in the - beloved by me - category of "inspirational Oscar movies", you know, the one which was spoofed in the movie-within-a-movie in In & Out, maybe you remember it. But there's too much hand-held camera unfortunately). But even this is rather predictable, isn't it? And by the way - I know that the word already existed in 1985, but was "homophobic" used by people back then? In Italy it became common only in the following decade. (But then this movie doesn't seem to be set in the 80s at all).
Yet I don't want to sound too negative about an effort which is clearly well-meaning, sincere. And for example the acting is good. Matthew McConaughey - once considered, by me, the most wooden actor of his generation - turns in the kind of ferocious performance which can easily win an Oscar. That he's never truly emotionally involving is probably not his fault - and maybe it's not such a bad thing either, as in this type of movie "emotion" too often becomes "emotionalism".
And the best scenes are those between him and Jared Leto, who's also, of course, good and showy and even funny - though, except maybe for a scene towards the end, it's not like he has the chance to go very deep. But they form an interesting couple.
It's a respectable movie, but I'm not sure that I'd personally give it any Oscars (though Best Supporting Actor would be a possibility - I should check all the alternatives). And three Oscars - which it might get - would be objectively too much.

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Re: Dallas Buyers Club reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Mon Jan 13, 2014 1:36 pm

I had a discussion the other day with a friend of mine who is a transgendered actress, and her very level-headed attitude on Leto in Dallas Buyers Club was that she felt his performance was very impressive and appreciated the film's positive portrayal of a transgendered woman, but still wished the role could have gone to a transgendered actress instead of a cisgendered man being showered with awards for "stretching." However, Leto's speech last night pushed her over the edge into being actively annoyed at the guy for showing so little sensitivity to the community of people he's winning so many prizes for representing.

I've mostly defended Dallas Buyers Club against the accusation that Ron Woodruff's story is not a "valid" AIDS narrative...but the details that flipp posted below make defending the alterations from reality way more difficult.

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Re: Dallas Buyers Club reviews

Postby Eric » Mon Jan 13, 2014 12:08 pm

I hope he doesn't win another award.

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Re: Dallas Buyers Club reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Jan 13, 2014 11:53 am

There is something to be said about the choice of casting Jared Leto, a cisgendered male, instead of a trans actress in Dallas Buyers Club especially when their star is collectively rising like never before. Because he is so good, it's easy to not mind. But his choice to give a horseshit transphobic speech instead of speak to trans rights lends credence to that point. I hope the producers take him backstage and smack him the fuck around before he wins another award.
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Re: Dallas Buyers Club reviews

Postby flipp525 » Sun Jan 12, 2014 3:42 pm

Interesting tidbit from someone posting at Datalounge:

"I just discovered that my personal physician was the inspiration for Jennifer Garner's character -- but my doctor is a gay man, not a woman (as he said to me: "Steve became Eve" -- Steve is his real name, Eve was the name of Jennifer's character). Also: the real Ron Woodroof was not only NOT homophobic but was actually bisexual (the drugs and partying were real). But Steve did not have a romance with Ron: Eve is a combination of Steve and Ron's ex-wife (not mentioned in the film), who cared for Ron until he died. The Jared Leto character is a complete fabrication.

I asked Steve if he was upset with the changes; he said that he was told when he first met with the screenwriters 4 years ago that they were going to "Hollywood-ize" the story, and he enjoyed the essence of the film, particularly McConaughey's performance, who, other than the fabricated homophobia, really captured what Ron was like."
Last edited by flipp525 on Mon Jan 13, 2014 1:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dallas Buyers Club reviews

Postby Sabin » Mon Dec 02, 2013 11:41 am

The words "HBO Movie" have been tossed about on this thread. I don't have much to say about Dallas Buyers Club except that if this was an HBO movie, I think it might be allowed to create a rhythm and energy more deserving of this eccentric figure. Perhaps on HBO, we wouldn't need a Jennifer Garner character to get in the way of the Dallas Buyers Club itself, the central milieu. Perhaps on HBO, Dallas Buyers Club wouldn't need to feel like the most swaggering film you've ever seen to get away with having a cast full of…well…the very people Ron ended up helping. There's something disingenuous about that, especially in the final stretch where the makers of the film clearly need to fashion a third act that feels the need for Ron to take the system to court.

But like most biopics, it's entertaining in the first half. They're underrated like that. There is a thrill in getting to know someone, and getting to know Ron Woodruff is entertaining. McConaughey is very good in this role, but at all times I knew I was watching Matthew McConaughey. At no point in the film was I looking at Jared Leto. I was looking at Rayon. My God, what a great performance.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: Dallas Buyers Club reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Wed Nov 20, 2013 5:10 pm

I'm behind on commenting, but this is one that doesn't require a whole ton of verbiage.

I liked the movie about on the level of an Erin Brockovich -- the material doesn't really go in any supremely inventive direction, but it's an enjoyable enough movie, and one that portrays its lead character with enough gruff bitterness that it never becomes the kind of sanctimonious uplift that these kinds of true-life crusades can sometimes become. The point that Mister Tee brought up -- and which some critics have lobbed rather strongly at the movie -- is worth discussing, I think; a narrative about AIDS in the '80's focusing on a straight man seems comparable to a civil rights drama about white freedom riders in terms of taking a predominately-minority experience and telling it from the majority's point of view. But...I have to say, I feel like I've seen a lot of films and plays about blue-state gay men with AIDS; I don't see why the Texas-set story of a guy who, in today's world, would probably have been a Tea Partier, is invalid as a worthwhile AIDS narrative, and in fact, I think the different milieu/character gives the story a unique angle that gives the movie a lot of the interest it has.

Mainly, though, the movie is worthwhile for the two impressive performances at its heart. I'd liked Matthew McConaughey a lot in Magic Mike, but even there, it seemed more like a case of perfect lucky casting than a career-changing acting breakthrough. But I clearly underestimated him. His work in Dallas Buyers Club is his best ever, I think, a performance that's deeply physical but never feels like it's relying on just the actor's emaciated body to do the heavy lifting, a turn that's full of spitfire anger, but also a determination to survive and a snarky sense of humor. I'd be hard-pressed to see him left off the Best Actor ballot, and I honestly can't wait to see what he does next.

Jared Leto is also pretty wonderful, scene-stealing in very funny ways near the top of the movie, without ever feeling like a simply sassy stereotype. And he's got some great dramatic moments near the end of the film -- including that hug with McConaughey, which I found to be deeply moving -- and the knockout scene with his father that feels like a classic Oscar clip. Leto has been hanging around some cool movies for a while (how many actors would kill to have The Thin Red Line, Fight Club, and Requiem for a Dream on their resumes?), but he's never really had a film part that allowed him to shine like this before.

Not a major movie, but a solid enough one, and one that allows two actors to excel at a level they hadn't really been able to before this point.

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Re: Dallas Buyers Club reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Nov 09, 2013 5:30 pm

Dallas Buyers Club is the sort of movie that would sweep the Emmys as an HBO film -- no doubt acting prizes for its male stars, and a plenty good enough film to trump the thin competition.

Out in the world of theatrical movies, it's a lesser accomplishment but not bad. The overall narrative is fairly easy to predict, but there are enough interesting developments and touches along the way to make it an easy sit. The film is definitely open to the criticism that, given the small number of films covering the AIDS crisis from a gay point of view, it's ridiculous to tell the story of the epidemic through an atypical heterosexual victim (and, boy, do they make sure you know he's heterosexual: there are more breasts in this movie than any I've seen in a while). But, at this point, it may be that the only way to give new life to a story that is, to many, ancient history, is to deal with an exception to the rule.

Anyway, McConnaughey's Ron Woodruff is a compelling character. As Wesley Morris notes in his review of the film, the mistake of McConnaughey's early career was to try and fit him into noble-leading-man template. It didn't take hold: something about him always gave off the whiff of lackadaisical hedonism. Woodruff is thus not so much a breakthrough role as a case of him finding the role that suits his natural persona. Given that this is a crowd-pleasing movie, we know Woodruff -- initially a first-class fuckup and intolerant jerk -- will show some signs of "redemption", but, to the film and McConnaughey's credit, he doesn't go too far with it (for example, his relationship with Leto's Rayon obviously warms, but still in a late moment he refers to him as "the idiot"). I say he's a definite nominee.

Leto has a clearly showy role -- one not dissimilar to Chris Sarandon's in Dog Day Afternoon -- and I think he's terrific in it: never pushing for pathos but getting plenty of it, along with a lot of laughs. He's an audience favorite from moment one, and has lots of great scenes (including a truly money scene near the end). I think he has to be considered a possibility for the supporting actor win.

All tolled, a basic three-star movie -- worth seeing for the performances, and easy enough to watch moment-by-moment, if nothing special in totality.

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Re: Dallas Buyers Club reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Sep 08, 2013 1:02 am

Hollywood Reporter

Dallas Buyers Club: Toronto Review

10:52 PM PDT 9/7/2013 by David Rooney

The Bottom Line

Matthew McConaughey is in top form in this entertaining account of a rodeo redneck who becomes an unlikely angel in the AIDS struggle.

TORONTO – “Life is strange,” sings Marc Bolan in one of a handful of T-Rex classics heard on the soundtrack of The Dallas Buyers Club. Putting fresh kinks in the familiar AIDS narrative, Jean-Marc Vallee’s enthralling drama recounts the strange life of Ron Woodroof, a womanizing Texas homophobe who stares down a 30-day death sentence and hustles his way to a place on the vanguard of experimental HIV/AIDS treatment.

The potentially downbeat subject matter is handled with vigor and an assured light touch, but the Focus Features release will get its biggest assist from the tremendous gusto of Matthew McConaughey’s lead performance. While much of the attention will focus on the actor’s astonishing weight loss for the role, transforming himself into a gaunt bag of bones for a good part of the action, this is a full-bodied characterization that will take McConaughey’s already impressive career regeneration several steps further.

His recent director on Magic Mike, Steven Soderbergh, comes to mind while watching this accomplished feature from Quebecois filmmaker Vallee (C.R.A.Z.Y., The Young Victoria). The unconstrained visual style, the gritty feel for environment, the ease of the character interplay and the fuss-free, almost casual eye for detail all recall the looseness and vitality of Soderbergh’s best work.

Vallee and screenwriters Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack waste no time in conveying what type of man Ron is, introducing him in the midst of a coke-fueled threeway in a rodeo holding pen with a couple of trashy women. A Dallas electrician by trade and a reckless cowboy by nature, he lands in Mercy Hospital in 1985 after a minor work accident. A blood test reveals he has the HIV virus and an alarmingly low T-cell count. But he reacts with hostility to doctors Sevard (Denis O’Hare) and Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), interpreting their diagnosis as a slur on his rampantly heterosexual masculinity.

After some hard-partying denial, the stark reality of his deteriorating health prompts Ron to start researching the virus. Unwilling to take his chances in clinical trials for the new drug AZT, he begins buying doses from a crooked hospital orderly. But when that supply dries up, he crosses the border to Mexico, where an unlicensed American doctor (Griffin Dunne) is getting results with alternative treatments.

Translating his own urgent need for medication into an entrepreneurial opportunity, Ron begins smuggling supplies of vitamin- and protein-based anti-viral meds into Texas. In order to build a client base among the unfamiliar gay community, he partners with a drug-addicted transsexual he met in hospital, Rayon (Jared Leto), who isn’t scared off by bigoted Ron’s animosity.

To get around potential legal strife they establish a club in which monthly membership buys a full treatment regimen. Ron also begins traveling – to Japan, China, the Netherlands – for AIDS drugs being developed abroad, undeterred by the attempts of the FDA, the DEA and the IRS to shut him down.

The contemplative movie doesn’t advocate self-medication, nor does it trivialize the long and hard-fought frontline battle for effective HIV treatment in America (see last year’s brilliant doc, How to Survive a Plague) by elevating the rogue efforts of a straight guy. It tells a very specific story of one AIDS patient’s refusal to slink off and die quietly while the medical profession and pharmaceutical giants dragged their heels, focusing almost exclusively on prohibitively expensive AZT and ignoring its toxic side effects.

While that shameful chapter of American institutional failure to address a pandemic is explored only peripherally here, it provides rich background texture. Likewise the homophobic ignorance directed at Ron by his former drinking buddies, giving him an illuminating taste of his own intolerance.

But what distinguishes Borten and Wallack’s screenplay is its refusal to sentimentalize by providing humbling epiphanies to set Ron on the right path and endow him with empathy. His racket remains driven primarily by self-interest, and yet almost unwittingly, his crusade for the right to control his treatment becomes an altruistic one, while his attitude toward people he once scorned softens by imperceptible degrees.

McConaughey plays these subtle shifts beautifully in a rowdy turn that’s full of piss and vinegar but also unexpected heart. Ron is presented as such irredeemable trash early on that it requires an actor who can own the rough edges but also has real charm deployment skills to keep him in our sympathies. McConaughey aces that tricky balancing act. He has affecting moments, both with Garner and Leto, but the surprise is how funny he makes the story of a man pushing back death.

Garner’s role has less dimension, but she brings a lot of warmth as Eve comes around to admiring Ron’s resourcefulness and recognizing the merit in what he’s doing. In the showier supporting role, Leto is simply wonderful. Fully inhabiting Rayon, he makes the slender creature anything but synthetic, his flirtatious banter poignantly underscored by helpless self-destructiveness.

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Dallas Buyers Club reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Sep 08, 2013 12:08 am

Variety

Toronto Film Review: ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

Peter Debruge

Any doubt that still exists in audiences’ minds as to Matthew McConaughey’s talents as an actor are permanently put to rest by “Dallas Buyers Club,” in which the 6-foot Texan star shed 38 pounds to play Ron Woodruff, the unlikely mastermind behind a scheme to circumvent the FDA by delivering unapproved treatments to AIDS patients during the late ’80s. But McConaughey’s is not the only performance of note in this riveting and surprisingly relatable true story, which co-stars Jared Leto as his transsexual accomplice. Rave reviews for both actors should draw mainstream auds to one of the year’s most vital and deserving indie efforts.

Nearly 20 years after launching his career as a hayseed hunk in “Dazed and Confused” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation,” McConaughey subverts that same macho image by playing a redneck bigot who becomes the unlikely savior to a generation of gay men frightened by a disease they don’t yet understand. Woodruff was straight — which the film makes abundantly clear in his undiminished pursuit of any woman who crosses his path — and reprehensibly homophobic to boot, but his newfound outcast status inspired a sense of empathy toward his HIV-positive peers that not only motivated his actions but also serves as this exceptionally well-handled pic’s most valuable takeaway.

Certainly, what makes the character so interesting is the way that a man so driven by selfishness could undergo such a reversal after his own life was threatened. Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack’s screenplay wastes little time in getting to the diagnosis: After a workplace accident lands him in the hospital, Woodruff is told that he has HIV by a pair of doctors (Denis O’Hare and Jennifer Garner) on the brink of implementing a new double-blind AZT trial among their patients at Dallas Mercy. Since best estimates give him only 30 days to live, Woodruff decides he can’t risk ending up in the placebo group and devises a way to scam some of the drug for himself.

After a second near-death experience south of the border, Woodruff realizes that AZT only makes his condition worse (especially when combined with his steady diet of cocaine, booze and methamphetamines), leading him to experiment with a cocktail of potential remedies not yet sanctioned by the FDA. If there’s a villain in the real-world version of this story, it’s the virus. For the sake of dramatic conflict, however, the film pits Woodruff against two of the biggest forces in American society — the government (represented by the FDA) and the corporate sector (“Big Pharma”) — positioning him as the rule-breaking Robin Hood who circumvents their profit-oriented practices in order to get effective treatments into the hands of people.

On one hand, the drug companies are shown conspiring with hospitals like Dallas Mercy to rush AZT through the system, even when research points to the medicine’s immunity-lowering side effects. At the same time, the FDA appears to be dragging out the approval process on other promising options, which means thousands will die before existing products get approved. For a detailed look at activist citizens’ struggle against these entities, last year’s “How to Survive a Plague” does the trick, while “Dallas Buyers Club” unfolds almost like a crazy heist movie: It’s the story of how one incredibly motivated creep managed to circumvent the system and redeem himself in the process.

Canadian helmer Jean-Marc Vallee (best known for the real-feeling coming-of-ager “C.R.A.Z.Y.”) makes no effort to polish Woodruff’s unrefined and frequently offensive worldview (his opening line is a slur against Rock Hudson, with many unflattering epithets to follow). Meanwhile, McConaughey commits to the character so fully, he never lets himself off the hook with that apologetic wink so often tossed off when actors play someone whose politics they don’t necessarily share.

The role calls for nothing short of full immersion, and the star — whose recent roles in everything from “Magic Mike” to “Mud” have shown his commitment to total transformation — comes off as almost unrecognizable, apart from his charisma: a bony scarecrow of a man with shaggy brown hair and a Freddy Mercury moustache. His Woodruff is a bull-riding, chain-smoking good ol’ boy who might never have justified his existence on earth if not for the way he responds to this particular adversity, and yet, his coarse, nothing-to-lose personality makes him the only person who could have turned such a seemingly hopeless situation to his advantage.

Leto’s character, Rayon, is just the opposite: sensitive, considerate and not quite self-reliant. In another kind of movie, audiences would root for his sort to escape such a backward place, but here, he’s the queer character just nonthreatening enough to break through Woodruff’s homophobic defenses, inspiring an act of chivalry in the grocery store that ranks among the all-time great prejudice-melting scenes. The movie has to earn that moment, and it does so by establishing such a genuine foundation for its characters. Like last spring’s “Pain and Gain,” “Dallas Buyers Club” was inspired by an over-the-top magazine story, but instead of treating everything as an enormous gonzo joke, Vallee and his team use the outrageous details to deepen the human-interest angle.

Although shot on a relatively tight budget, the film convincingly re-creates the period via a gritty widescreen look that suits Vallee’s naturalistic style. With one exception (a cathartic moment for Garner’s increasingly frustrated character involving a hammer), the only music heard throughout plays on radios or jukeboxes in the background of scenes. The handheld shooting style is never so unsteady as to distract, but instead lends an almost subliminal authenticity to scenes where character remains at the forefront at all times.

Not since “I Love You Phillip Morris” has a film put such a fresh twist on the accepted AIDS narrative, but instead of getting in the public’s faces the way that crazy Jim Carrey comedy did, “Dallas Buyers Club” works its way under their skin. By choosing such a vocally homophobic antihero, writers Borten and Wallack ensure that no matter how uncomfortable audiences are with HIV or so-called “alternative lifestyles,” they will recognize Woodruff’s knee-jerk bigotry as uncool. And thus, the film manages to educate without ever feeling didactic, and to entertain in the face of what would, to any other character, seem like a grim life sentence.


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