Combustible Celluloid
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With: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn, Dallas Roberts, Michael O'Neill, Denis O'Hare, Griffin Dunne, Jane McNeill
Written by: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack
Directed by: Jean-Marc VallŽe
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, nudity and drug use
Running Time: 117
Date: 11/01/2013

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Club Meds

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Jean-Marc Vallée, whose last movie was the bland costume epic The Young Victoria, films Dallas Buyers Club in a kind of grungy, muddy haze, perhaps trying to recall the look of 1980s home video. But this approach doesn't help the grim, queasy story about sickness go down any easier. The movie also takes many shortcuts, compressing and compacting its story down to manageable size. This technique squashes any potential moments of life, as well as making the main character's transformation seem too clean and abrupt.

In the 1980s, Dallas good ol' boy Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is a rodeo cowboy and an electrician who loves to party and sleep with lots of women. A trip to the hospital after an accident at work reveals that he has the HIV virus. He learns that only an early, experimental drug is available. He obtains some illegally, but his source dries up. He finds an outcast doctor in Mexico that helps him learn about the benefits of simple proteins and vitamins. He also forms a friendship with a sick drag queen, Rayon (Jared Leto), who helps him overcome his homophobia. Together, they form a "buyers club," wherein other AIDS patients buy memberships to receive helpful medicines. Unfortunately, the big drug companies are not happy about this.

Many will be impressed by McConaughey's performance; the actor lost a great amount of weight and appears totally different. Likewise, Jared Leto clearly worked equally hard on his role as a drag queen. And the story they're telling is a powerful one; viewers of a younger generation may be interested -- and shocked -- to see how slowly drug companies reacted to the AIDS crisis and what ordinary people did to help themselves in that situation.

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