This critically-acclaimed drama sees Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto deliver Oscar-winning performances as two HIV sufferers who take a proactive stance to deal with their condition…
The film may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is playing towards the mainstream audience, bringing us into a world we may not be familiar with. Woodroof is a character that, at the beginning, is extremely obnoxious and almost a caricature of this hot-blooded redneck, but then slowly starts to become this accidental hero as we go on this journey with him. Real life people who knew Ron Woodroof claim that he wasn’t that horrible in real life, so the horribleness at the beginning is clearly used as a more effective plot device to show how extreme his transformation is.
Continuing the reinvention (dubbed the “McConaissance”) that has seen him lay the ghost of grizzly rom-coms, such as Failure to Launch, The Wedding Planner and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, with harder-edged roles in Killer Joe, Magic Mike and Mud, Matthew McConaughey does give the performance of a lifetime. There had been a lot of reports about the weight-loss McConaughey went through, but in the end, that is merely just the dressing around the character, and you get past that very quickly. What McConaughey does is completely embody this character, which at the beginning is this absolute, single-minded, selfish and dangerous character, and gets you to come on this journey with him during the course of the drama.
Jared Leto also breathes tender life and soul to a character, who is composite and could’ve been portrayed as a cipher, but what Leto does is take a character, that in other people’s hands could’ve been portrayed horribly wrong, and make him sympathetic and, in some ways, more interesting than Woodroof.
The director, Jean-Marc Vallée, who cut his teeth with the brilliant coming-of-age drama, C.R.A.Z.Y., exhibits the same lightness of touch here, whilst Yves Bélanger’s loose-limbed widescreen camerawork combined with diegetic music lends a real naturalistic air to the proceedings, making the film seem more poetic than vérité, but yet, it’s shot with a palpable air of realism about it. In the end, the performances by McConaughey and Leto are the key to what makes this film great. Yet the film is trying to play to the mainstream audience and tries to find an upbeat story in what looks like terribly tragic circumstances, and does balance comedy and tragedy rather effectively. Dallas Buyer’s Club is not a “feel-good film”, but it’s a film that is rather easy to like.