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DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

SYNOPSIS:
The story of Texas electrician Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) and his battle with the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies after being diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1986, and his search for alternative treatments that helped established a way in which fellow HIV-positive people could join a 'club' to access his supplies. (Based on a true story)

Review by Louise Keller:
Two stand-out performances and the claustrophobic depiction of a death-infested reality are the significant elements of Dallas Buyers Club. It's a tough film, based on a true story, set in the mid 80s, when AIDS had just hit the headlines and was pronounced as 'the gay disease'. The protagonist is a homophobic cowboy whose promiscuous lifestyle leaves him with HIV and a death sentence. His choices and decisions to fight the establishment, the drug companies and the law make him an unlikely hero, in his quest to quash the FDA's (Food and Drug Administration) rule involving unapproved treatments. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto shine brightly in roles whose physical demands alone are staggering.

It is a shock to see McConaughey, gaunt and with sunken eyes, after having lost about 40 pounds to play the role of Ron Woodroof. His Texas drawl occasionally is swallowed and hard to decipher. It is in hospital that Woodroof meets Rayon (Leto), the transvestite who calls him 'handsome in a Texas hick kind of way'. There is a huge irony in the fact that Woodroof's homophobic attitudes reverse as he and Rayon team up to distribute the selection of vitamins, antiviral drugs and protein through their Dallas Buyers Club, where patients pay for membership but not for drugs. The drugs come with the membership. Leto also reaches skeletal proportions and his portrayal of Rayon brings the film's most poignant moments.

The casting of Jennifer Garner as the sympathetic doctor is a surprise and Garner brings softness to the role (and the film), that works to its advantage. Dr Eve Saks is one of two doctors who are trialing AZT, which is where Woodroof's journey begins.

Director Jean-Marc Vallée takes a different direction once again - after the emotionally powerful C.R.A.Z.Y (2005), the elegant The Young Victoria (2009) and the troubling Café de Flore (2011) to envelop us in a grim setting, where life is borrowed and the choices are few. It's a hard film to watch but it makes its point about the inflexibility of the law and how a patient may not make his own choices about his treatment. Unless he is Ron Woodroof, that is. A cowboy who prefers to 'fade out with his boots on'.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Or how a reprobate womaniser, boozer, snorter and hustler made a difference to hundreds if not millions of lives ...and how an actor called Matthew McConaughey resurrected the remarkable spirit of Ron Woodroof, in a performance that swallows the actor - body and all. It will be constantly remarked how gaunt and ill he looks as Woodroof, how he starved and sacrificed for his art. But let me pose a counter argument: that was the method of his finding the character. Rather than an imposition, the effort was his acting deliverance.

It is central to the story, the character and to the film overall, as far as audience response is concerned. His appearance is the proof of the film's authenticity. But let's not get too focused on it because there is so much more to celebrate and take away from this bravura work by the whole team, and especially Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée, whose latest feature was Café de Flore (2011).

For one thing, the screenplay is devoid of Hollywood schmaltz and Hollywood fakery; it is visceral and poignant and never fails to be truthful, raw and intelligently sensitive. It is one helluva film, more than a biography, more than a docudrama: it's story of a unique man, a Texan rodeo aficionado and all round homophobic tough guy gets AIDS, and eventually bonds with a cross dressing homosexual. - Rayon. Rayon is a magnificent, rich, heartbreaking performance by Jared Leto that will haunt us for a long time. Possibly as long as it has taken the screenplay to become a film: 20 years.

The story reveals information, as well as character, providing an insight - especially for the generations that came after the 80s AIDS breakout - to the times and how (badly) we dealt with it. Any homophobes who see the film accidentally or are dragged (as it were) along to see it, may reflect on how much more powerful compassion is than hate and violence. That's a fantastically important message, although the filmmakers do not wish to deliver any messages. And so much more effective it is for that.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (M)
(US, 2013)

CAST: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Denis O'Hare, Steve Zahn, Dallas Roberts, Kevin Rankin, James DuMont

PRODUCER: Robbie Brenner, Rachel Winter

DIRECTOR: Jean-Marc Vallée

SCRIPT: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Yves Bélanger

EDITOR: Martin Pensa, Jean-Marc Vallée

PRODUCTION DESIGN: John Paino

RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Pinnacle

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 13, 2014







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