Dallas Buyers Club (2014)

Dallas Buyers Club (2014)

I like it when people make up new words: neologisms, if you want to be technical about it. Sometimes they make little to no sense, but they still happen. Now, this probably shows my age (or my ageing mind, at the very least), but someone confronted me with the word “twerking” early last year and I had no goddamn idea what it was. I thought it had something to do with Twitter. I thought that was a pretty good guess right?? Ok, ok, not all words beginning with “tw-“ are to do with that little blue bird… in fact, I can think of some rather “blue” words that begin with “tw-“, but that’s for another day!! That was a case where I completely got the wrong end of the stick with these new words. That was never the problem interpreting the term “McConaissance”. Yes, this is actually a term that was coined a little while back to describe the re-emergence / renaissance of a certain Mr. Matthew McConaughey following several years of being out in the wilderness… and Dallas Buyers Club is testament to the latest episode in his McConaissance…

Dallas Buyers Club (2014)

Dallas Buyers Club tells the true story of Ron Woodruff (McConaughey) – your archetypal narrow-minded guy from Dallas in the 1980’s. He’s homophobic, uses women and loves the drink and drugs. He’s not the most likeable of human beings. So when he hears he’s acquired HIV (despite protestations about it being a “gay” (he uses stronger terms) disease), he’s a little shocked and taken aback. Especially when he learns that the FDA doesn’t support / endorse several drugs that could prolong his life. This leads to Woodruff “acquiring” these drugs from various foreign destinations, and, with the help of transgender Rayon (Jared Leto), forms the Dallas Buyers Club – a place where he can distribute these drugs to those willing to pay the membership fee in the US. All very illegal, all very Robin Hood… but with drugs… and taking money from the needy…

That’s the story in a nutshell! If anything the film really takes a lens to the real problems of the pharmaceutical industry (The Phage knows a little about this topic…) and how unfortunate it is that drugs are restricted to certain countries for reasons X, Y and Z. The tale itself is compelling and pulls you in, as you try to understand Woodruff’s plight and how this callous, shallow man will progress through the movie.

Dallas Buyers Club (2014)

But this is really a character-driven slice of cinema in its rawest form. Clearly, we have to focus on Matthew McConaughey here. Now, this guy came back onto my radar following the fabulous Killer Joe, which was actually the first review we had here on Film Phage (and it also reads like it was written by a 3 year old), so it’s got a special place in our Phagey heart for that reason alone. But it truly is fabulous. He’s followed that up with memorable roles in Magic Mike, Mud and The Wolf of Wall Street, and will soon be in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. He’s re-emerged in a big way. A big, character-driven way. No doubt, he excels in Dallas Buyers Club – he embodies the larger than life character brilliantly and has clearly dedicated himself to the role – just look at his emaciated form! Having said that, it does sometimes come across that he’s playing the role a little “too” larger than life at times. Whilst it doesn’t detract from the film for the most part, it is notable…

Dallas Buyers Club (2014)

Especially when he’s compared to Jared Leto in the supporting role as transgender Rayon. Simply, Leto is sublime. For a guy that’s actually been out in the “wilderness” (he also fronts rock / pseudo-metal band 30 Seconds To Mars), he’s stormed back into acting with aplomb. Reading about his dedication to this role is humbling, as he really wanted to learn what it’s like to be transgender in Texas, so stayed in makeup and costume whilst off set; leading to all manner of remarks and comments. Leto brings something special to his role here and has fantastic chemistry with McConaughey, which makes it pretty unsurprising to see him nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. As much as we love Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave and Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips, we think this is Leto’s prize to lose based off this sensational performance.

Dallas Buyers Club is a captivating, politically-charged, and rewarding character-driven film. Some may see this as solely a McConaughey vehicle, but they should look deeper at the supporting cast here. Especially the fantastic Jared Leto, who we’d never really associated with strong acting chops. Whilst the movie certainly isn’t a cheery affair (it’s dealing with HIV after all), it has enough charm and drama to carry it over its two hour run time. It’s done fantastic service to Woodruff’s memory – there’s no sugar coating of his true character. A hero he is not, which makes him hard to root for, but you won’t be able to look away.

All these neologisms have made us hunger after some of our own. Maybe we should blend the word Phage in there too, for good measure? Phrage: the rage we get when we have people kicking the back of our chair / laughing at non-funny films, or maybe EnPhaged – when we’re so enrapt and engaged with a new film that we can bear to look away?? Hey, our name only has one syllable – this is tough! If you have some others… well, you know where the comments section is, don’t you? Don’t EnPhrage us…

Phage Factor:

4 Star

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