Dallas Buyers Club – **1/2

Posted: March 19, 2014 in 2013, Disease of the week, Drama, LGBT themed, USA, XX1/2

As I was watching Dallas Buyers Club I kept thinking how this career change for Matthew McConaughey happened. Was he fed up of playing the lead in romantic comedies? Or didn’t he get cast anymore in the kind of movies that made him big and did the change happen out of necessity?  Whatever reason there might have been, it worked. He jumped on the indie/arthouse wagon and has delivered solid performances ever since. I’ve seen more of his movies in the past year than in the past two decades. It’s still Matthew McConaughey though, unable to speak proper English. His nasal Southern/Texan accent remains annoying and I really hope his next role will be that of a New Englander. If he can pull that off, he really deserves an Oscar.

A few weeks ago, he got his first Academy Award for portraying a homophobic rodeo-rider/electrician who is diagnosed with HIV and decides to smuggle and sell illegal medicine to fellow patients. Apart from losing 40 kilo for the part, he also succeeds in being convincing as a low life trailer trash hustler. This guy feels real. It’s still Matthew McConaughey, but this time he’s a real person. Did he deserve to win? Sure. But in this crazy world of acting competition, there were better performances in his category. He’s not the first to lose weight for a part (remember Christian Bale and even 50 Cent?), but he brings his dying patient amazingly to life!

Another statue was given to Jared Leto, who plays some kind of transvestite/transsexual who helps deliver the drugs to other users. It’s an intriguing character and Leto does it well, but it all feels too premeditated.  As if the producers and Leto sat around the table and discussed how they could get him an Oscar nomination and put him back in the acting market. He left the industry a few years ago to focus on his megalomaniac rock band 30 Seconds To Mars. Hopefully this recognition will make him realize that he should stick with what he’s good at: acting.  He’s very convincing as well.

Both have made this movie quite successful. Their brilliant contribution to this indie blockbuster makes the rest of the cast look dumb. One of them is ‘doctor’ Jennifer Garner who treats HIV patients and is reluctant to use the only approved drug (AZT). She looks like she has no clue what is going on, like she arrived on the set and had 1 minute to prepare her scene. It’s really bad. Then there are all the other stereotypes ranging from homophobic cowboys to effeminate gays to profit eyeing pharmaceutical experts and self-centred doctors. That’s not necessarily bad, but the people who interpret them add nothing extra to their characters.

The story on the other hand is intriguing and may be confronting for a lot of people who didn’t pay attention while it was happening back in the eighties or for those who have no idea how terrifying this virus was when it first claimed victims. I learned more in the special Aids History exhibit at the NY City Museum last year than in this movie, but many will learn about this for the very first time. Aids is still very much a problem in the gay community, but its devastation is now more visible amongst the straight people on the African continent. There is still no cure though. And we are 30 years later.


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