An anti-homophobic fable Dallas Buyers Club, directed by Jean-Marc Vallee tells the story of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) a life-loving rodeo cowboy in the 1980s, who discovers that due to one of his many unprotected dalliances that he has contracted HIV and aids. Initially sceptical about the diagnosis, his deteriorating health highlights the truth and he finds himself researching the disease and travelling the world to find a cure for himself and a series of customers who join his ˜club.’ He also finds himself interacting with future business partner, the transgendered Rayon (Jared Leto) and slowly the error of his ways begins to dawn on him.
Very definitely a character study, Dallas Buyers Club success relies upon lead McConaughey and his now narrow shoulders. Having lost over 40lbs of weight to play the affected Woodroof, he is a shadow of his romantic comedy self and like Christian Bale in The Machinist and The Fighter, it is a testament to his recent resurgence as an actor that he has gone so far in pursuit of accuracy. Losing weight is not a sign of a good acting performance, but it certainly helps remove the memory of his previous role as a hunk.
At the start Woodroof is a thoroughly unlikable anti-hero whose life revolves around casual sex, drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. As it progresses he loses some of the more anti-social elements of his character, but retains his crazed obsession-led decision-making. This transition while subtle at first does become a little paint-by-numbers toward the end and his sudden desire to step out of the shadows and fight for the rights of HIV and Aids sufferers maybe born out of his real suffering, but feels a bit forced in terms of a film drama.
The story itself, based on shocking true events actually plays out more like a melodrama and while Jared Leto is convincing as Rayon, his role becomes a little clichÃ©d. The actor is superb, but is limited by the obvious and somewhat heavy-handed nature of the script. There are decent supporting turns by Steve Zahn and Jennifer Garner, but this is very much a McConaughey tour de force.
There is a reason he became a film star and Dallas Buyers Club reminds of his prodigious talent.