August 27, 2013 at 4:22 pm #109999
Did not have a clue that was Leto until his name popped up! I’m looking forward to this.August 28, 2013 at 7:03 am #110000
Matthew McConaughey, wow. What I was not expecting was Jared Leto popping the way that he did in the trailer. Very good for him.August 28, 2013 at 7:36 am #110001
Both McConaughey and Leto looked great in the trailer, but I must say I was especially impressed with Leto.September 7, 2013 at 4:03 pm #110002
First review seen from any reputable source:
by Eric Kohn
September 7, 2013 3:16 PM
Toronto Review: Matthew McConaughey Pulls Off Tricky Performance In Flawed But Affecting ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
“Dallas Buyers Club.”
It doesn’t take long to establish the challenge of Matthew
McConaughey’s performance in “Dallas Buyers Club,” both for him and
viewers asked to accept it. The emaciated actor, playing a straight man
who just learned he has AIDS, glares at his doctor and fires back that
there’s no way he’s got “that Rock-cock-sucking-Hudson bullshit.” The
actor, who shed nearly a quarter of his body weight for the role, makes
clear the artificial nature of his performance from the outset, then
spends most of the movie strengthening its credibility. To its credit,
“Dallas Buyers Club” provides McConaughey with sufficient room to
gradually make his onscreen persona more palatable, but like the
character’s battle to survive, it’s no easy proposition.
on the true life story of Ron Woodruff, a Texan electrician diagnosed
with AIDS in 1985, “Dallas Buyers Club” covers the immediate aftermath
of Woodruff’s diagnosis, which initially arrived with the expectation
that he would be dead within a month even though he lived another seven
years. Facing impossible odds for the time, Woodruff fought to get his
hands on unapproved experimental medications and eventually got in the
business of selling it to other ailing locals.
Jean-Marc Vallée from Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack’s script, the
movie emphasizes Woodruff’s transition from spiteful trailer trash
cliché to medical activist a little too bluntly, though Vallée largely
counteracts that issue with a noticeably restrained tone that
foregrounds McConaughey’s increasingly believable embodiment of the
character. Vallée, whose last credit was the ambitious French language
time-hopping drama “Café de Flore,” directs this scenario with a
straightforward approach that may not realize the full dramatic weight
of the situation but generally sidesteps potential issues that arise
with a heterosexual perspective that downplays its homosexual
Rather than engaging with the greater issues of the
AIDS epidemic plaguing the country at the same time that Woodruff faces
his predicament, “Dallas Buyers Club” merely hints at the bigger
picture. Mainly, it sticks to Woodruff’s transition: Starting out as a
mean-spirited philanderer, he gradually softens up under dire
circumstances. The chief emotional pull comes from the way he initially
rejects others’ help and eventually decides to join their cause.
makes Woodruff’s commitment into the central engine of the drama.
Initially seen as a hustler who wastes his days ripping people off at
rodeos and screwing every woman in his orbit, he funnels that same
energy into his fight, even though he’s a newbie to its cause. “Screw
the FBA,” he says, flubbing the acronym FDA when told that the medicine
he wants hasn’t been approved. “I’ve got a DOA.”
rising business prospects provide sufficient content for an increasingly
involving drama, as his dealings find him not only seeding the needs of
the Dallas AIDS community but also traveling around the world in search
of more unlicensed drugs. Unfortunately, most of the other
personalities surrounding the scheme lack the same sharp definition. As
the tender-hearted doctor initially divided over his cause before taking
a radical stance of her own, Jennifer Garner delivers a basic,
unadventurous performance that suffers from being in the shadow of
McConaughey’s complex achievement. Jared Leto technically faces an even
more daunting undertaking with his portrayal of Rayon, the angst-riddled
transsexual driven to become Woodruff’s business partner. But while
Rayon is a believably irritable outcast, he’s given only a handful of
scenes to broaden the plot’s focus. For better or worse, “Dallas Buyers
Club” foregrounds Woodruff’s struggles above all else.
you’re willing to accept that he’s the only true star, the movie
eloquently pits his wild-eyed early days, when he smuggles the
ineffectual drug AZT out of the hospital and chases it with beer and
coke, against the considerably more empathetic and tolerant man seen in
the final act. After meeting an underground doctor south of the border
(a wry Dennis O’Hare), Woodruff finds the ideal partner in crime to
enable his scheme. It’s easy to get swept up their cause and only
consider its limited vision in hindsight.
Shot with a gritty
naturalism that draws out the Western dimensions of the setting, “Dallas
Buyers Club” matches Woodruff’s tough situation with an equally dour
atmosphere. The narrative only really stumbles because its tone never
manages to convince on the level that McConaughey’s performance
eventually does. With its subdued approach, “Dallas Buyers Club” stops
just short of an emotional payoff.
But that’s a relatively
innocuous problem considering that it manages to navigate the
possibility of a far more troubling issue — marginalizing its gay
characters, “Dallas Buyers Club” finds them rescued by a messianic
straight man. The only time Vallée overplays this possibility in
gratuitous fashion, he shows Woodruff discovering a roomful of moths and
allows them to cover his body as they were millions of souls rescued by
his efforts. It’s the single moment where “Dallas Buyers Club” jumps
the shark; for the majority of the time, it wrestles with the heavy
material like the cowboys and cattle at the rodeo that frames its
events, and McConaughey proves himself a proficient rider.
Criticwire grade: B
HOW WILL IT PLAY?
Focus Features plans to release “Dallas Buyers Club” on November 1 in
the heat of the fall awards season. While reactions to the film are
bound to be mixed, the lead actor is bound to remain in play for his
physically demanding turn.September 7, 2013 at 5:25 pm #110003
Could be lead and supporting noms for MCCONAUGHEY AND LETO….September 7, 2013 at 8:55 pm #110004
The impossible-to-please Guardian’s review is up. It’s a rave.September 7, 2013 at 9:05 pm #110005
Imo, Jared Leto has nothing to prove. The guy has talent up the yingyang. But McConaughey, who burst onto the scene as the ‘next great thing’, has been rehabilating himself in his past few films; Bernie, Mud, Killer Joe, and also, Tropic Thunder. And he’s got Wolf coming up, along with two other interesting prospects.
Could he win for this?? Lol. Geebus.September 7, 2013 at 9:21 pm #110006
Any doubt that still exists in audiences’ minds as to Matthew McConaughey’s talents as an actor are permanently put to rest by “Dallas Buyers Club,” in which the 6-foot Texan star shed 38 pounds to play Ron Woodruff, the unlikely mastermind behind a scheme to circumvent the FDA by delivering unapproved treatments to AIDS patients during the late ’80s. But McConaughey’s is not the only performance of note in this riveting and surprisingly relatable true story, which co-stars Jared Leto as his transsexual accomplice. Rave reviews for both actors should draw mainstream auds to one of the year’s most vital and deserving indie efforts.
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Nearly 20 years after launching his career as a hayseed hunk in “Dazed and Confused” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation,” McConaughey subverts that same macho image by playing a redneck bigot who becomes the unlikely savior to a generation of gay men frightened by a disease they don’t yet understand. Woodruff was straight — which the film makes abundantly clear in his undiminished pursuit of any woman who crosses his path — and reprehensibly homophobic to boot, but his newfound outcast status inspired a sense of empathy toward his HIV-positive peers that not only motivated his actions but also serves as this exceptionally well-handled pic’s most valuable takeaway.
Certainly, what makes the character so interesting is the way that a man so driven by selfishness could undergo such a reversal after his own life was threatened. Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack’s screenplay wastes little time in getting to the diagnosis: After a workplace accident lands him in the hospital, Woodruff is told that he has HIV by a pair of doctors (Denis O’Hare and Jennifer Garner) on the brink of implementing a new double-blind AZT trial among their patients at Dallas Mercy. Since best estimates give him only 30 days to live, Woodruff decides he can’t risk ending up in the placebo group and devises a way to scam some of the drug for himself.
After a second near-death experience south of the border, Woodruff realizes that AZT only makes his condition worse (especially when combined with his steady diet of cocaine, booze and methamphetamines), leading him to experiment with a cocktail of potential remedies not yet sanctioned by the FDA. If there’s a villain in the real-world version of this story, it’s the virus. For the sake of dramatic conflict, however, the film pits Woodruff against two of the biggest forces in American society — the government (represented by the FDA) and the corporate sector (“Big Pharma”) — positioning him as the rule-breaking Robin Hood who circumvents their profit-oriented practices in order to get effective treatments into the hands of people.
On one hand, the drug companies are shown conspiring with hospitals like Dallas Mercy to rush AZT through the system, even when research points to the medicine’s immunity-lowering side effects. At the same time, the FDA appears to be dragging out the approval process on other promising options, which means thousands will die before existing products get approved. For a detailed look at activist citizens’ struggle against these entities, last year’s “How to Survive a Plague” does the trick, while “Dallas Buyers Club” unfolds almost like a crazy heist movie: It’s the story of how one incredibly motivated creep managed to circumvent the system and redeem himself in the process.
Canadian helmer Jean-Marc Vallee (best known for the real-feeling coming-of-ager “C.R.A.Z.Y.”) makes no effort to polish Woodruff’s unrefined and frequently offensive worldview (his opening line is a slur against Rock Hudson, with many unflattering epithets to follow). Meanwhile, McConaughey commits to the character so fully, he never lets himself off the hook with that apologetic wink so often tossed off when actors play someone whose politics they don’t necessarily share.
The role calls for nothing short of full immersion, and the star — whose recent roles in everything from “Magic Mike” to “Mud” have shown his commitment to total transformation — comes off as almost unrecognizable, apart from his charisma: a bony scarecrow of a man with shaggy brown hair and a Freddy Mercury moustache. His Woodruff is a bull-riding, chain-smoking good ol’ boy who might never have justified his existence on earth if not for the way he responds to this particular adversity, and yet, his coarse, nothing-to-lose personality makes him the only person who could have turned such a seemingly hopeless situation to his advantage.
Leto’s character, Rayon, is just the opposite: sensitive, considerate and not quite self-reliant. In another kind of movie, audiences would root for his sort to escape such a backward place, but here, he’s the queer character just nonthreatening enough to break through Woodruff’s homophobic defenses, inspiring an act of chivalry in the grocery store that ranks among the all-time great prejudice-melting scenes. The movie has to earn that moment, and it does so by establishing such a genuine foundation for its characters. Like last spring’s “Pain and Gain,” “Dallas Buyers Club” was inspired by an over-the-top magazine story, but instead of treating everything as an enormous gonzo joke, Vallee and his team use the outrageous details to deepen the human-interest angle.
Although shot on a relatively tight budget, the film convincingly re-creates the period via a gritty widescreen look that suits Vallee’s naturalistic style. With one exception (a cathartic moment for Garner’s increasingly frustrated character involving a hammer), the only music heard throughout plays on radios or jukeboxes in the background of scenes. The handheld shooting style is never so unsteady as to distract, but instead lends an almost subliminal authenticity to scenes where character remains at the forefront at all times.
Not since “I Love You Phillip Morris” has a film put such a fresh twist on the accepted AIDS narrative, but instead of getting in the public’s faces the way that crazy Jim Carrey comedy did, “Dallas Buyers Club” works its way under their skin. By choosing such a vocally homophobic antihero, writers Borten and Wallack ensure that no matter how uncomfortable audiences are with HIV or so-called “alternative lifestyles,” they will recognize Woodruff’s knee-jerk bigotry as uncool. And thus, the film manages to educate without ever feeling didactic, and to entertain in the face of what would, to any other character, seem like a grim life sentence.
Toronto Film Review: ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 7, 2013. Running time: 117 MIN.
A Focus Features release presented with Truth Entertainment of a Voltage Pictures/R² Films/Evolution Independent production. Produced by Robbie Brenner, Rachel Winter. Executive producers, David Bushell, Nathan Ross, Tony Notargiacomo, Joe Newcomb, Nicolas Chartier, Zev Foreman, Logan Levy, Holly Wiersma, Cassian Elwes. Co-producers, Michael Sledd, Parry Creedon.
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee. Screenplay, Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack. Camera (color, Panavision widescreen), Yves Belanger; editors, John Mac McMurphy, Martin Pensa; production designer, John Paino; art director, Javiera Varas; set decorator, Robert Covelman; costume designers, Kurt and Bart; sound (Dolby Digital), Dick Hansen; stunt coordinator, Alex Terzieff; sound supervisor, Martin Pinsonnault; visual effects supervisor, Marc Cote; visual effects, Fake Studio; assistant director, Mark Stevens; casting, Kerry Barden, Paul Schnee, Rich Delia.
Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Denis O’Hare, Steve Zahn, Michael O’Neill, Dallas Roberts, Griffin Dunne, Kevin Rankin, Jared Leto.
Filed Under:September 7, 2013 at 9:33 pm #110007
The Guardian review:
Dallas Buyers Club: Toronto 2013 – first look review
Matthew McConaughey is a thin, grizzly triumph in this true life story of a gay-bashing cowboy who took on pharmaceutical companies after being diagnosed with AIDS
A day in the life of the rodeo cowboy. A slug of bourbon, a dance with the bull, a post-buck shuffle with a prostitute under the stands. A life of narrow parameters. Pleasure taken fast, hard and simple.
Dallas Buyers Club shows how terminal illness ripped up the routine of one such small thinker. Ron Woodroof was a homophobic hedonist who, in 1986, was given 30 days to live after being diagnosed HIV positive. His world flipped from gay-bashing in the bar with his blue collar buddies, to hours in hospital, camped next to fellow AIDs patients, most of whom were gay men dealing with a disease that had started to devastate their community.
Woodroof’s response to his diagnosis was to reject his doctor’s prescription, head for the Mexican black market to collect his own cocktail of alternative therapies, then set up a subscription service to shop the treatment back to the same people he claimed to hate. He was a grizzly, complex character. Dallas Buyers Club is at its best when it keeps him that way.
Matthew McConaughey lost 38 pounds to play Woodroof. He delivers a twitchy, hostile performance on par with anything he’s done since he escaped the rom com cul-de-sac. He’s matched by Jared Leto as Rayon, a transsexual drug addict who goes into business with Woodroof and carries the responsibility of broadening the shit-kicking cowboy’s world view. Rayon paints Woodroof’s motel room a garish red (“It’s Cranberry Mocha!”), sticks pictures of Marc Bolan up amongst the cutouts from girlie mags. The odd couple came together because there was money to be made, but Rayon reasons it won’t hurt to dripfeed Woodroof some tolerance as well. Less juicy is Jennifer Garner’s role as the more sympathetic of Woodroof’s doctors. “You’re always in a white coat,” he says. “Are you afraid of colour?”. The screenplay answered in the affirmative a long time ago.
America’s AIDS crisis has been under a small scale cinematic re-evaluation of late. Last year’s Oscar-nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague condemned government inaction. Dallas Buyers Club takes on big pharma, waging war on the bureaucrats who were happy to charge $10,000 a year for drugs that were toxic, while the FDA stood in the way of treatments that were proven to work, but less marketable. It’s in this fight that the film loses part of its thrust. The suits and their profit margins are no match for McConaughey as Woodroof. The wildcard’s more fun to watch.
Dallas Buyers Club takes its own alternative route compared to the prescribed biopic conventions. There’s a conversion for Woodroof, but it’s not dramatic or revelatory. He didn’t have enough time left to become a true reformer. He accepts and even loves Rayon, but we don’t get a grand-scale happy-clappy realisation that all of us are equal. Nor should we. This is not about a community taking care of its own. This is about Ron Woodroof looking out for himself, permitting difference to that end, then growing gradually out of routine homophobia. He was a grizzled bastard who spun a profit that paved a way for change. A survivor who escaped himself through desperation and greed. Dallas Buyers Club stays true to that remarkable, redoubtable spirit.September 7, 2013 at 9:35 pm #110008
I could see Leto winning and Mackonohay nominated. (not the other way around) I really could.September 7, 2013 at 10:31 pm #110009
Practically locks for Indie Spirit nods.September 8, 2013 at 6:29 am #110010
Not sure about Leto but Matthew has a great shot at a Oscar nomination.September 8, 2013 at 7:55 am #110011
Hollywood Reporter review’s in..
Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto star in the true story of a hedonistic Texan homophobe who bounced back in surprising ways from the gut punch of his HIV-positive diagnosis.
TORONTO – “Life is strange,” sings Marc Bolan in one of a handful of T-Rex classics heard on the soundtrack of The Dallas Buyers Club. Putting fresh kinks in the familiar AIDS narrative, Jean-Marc Vallee’s enthralling drama recounts the strange life of Ron Woodroof, a womanizing Texas homophobe who stares down a 30-day death sentence and hustles his way to a place on the vanguard of experimental HIV/AIDS treatment.
OUR EDITOR RECOMMENDS
The potentially downbeat subject matter is handled with vigor and an assured light touch, but the Focus Features release will get its biggest assist from the tremendous gusto of MatthewMcConaughey’s lead performance. While much of the attention will focus on the actor’s astonishing weight loss for the role, transforming himself into a gaunt bag of bones for a good part of the action, this is a full-bodied characterization that will take McConaughey’s already impressive career regeneration several steps further.
His recent director on Magic Mike, Steven Soderbergh, comes to mind while watching this accomplished feature from Quebecois filmmaker Vallee (C.R.A.Z.Y., The Young Victoria). The unconstrained visual style, the gritty feel for environment, the ease of the character interplay and the fuss-free, almost casual eye for detail all recall the looseness and vitality of Soderbergh’s best work.
Vallee and screenwriters Craig Borten and Melisa Wallackwaste no time in conveying what type of man Ron is, introducing him in the midst of a coke-fueled threeway in a rodeo holding pen with a couple of trashy women. A Dallas electrician by trade and a reckless cowboy by nature, he lands in Mercy Hospital in 1985 after a minor work accident. A blood test reveals he has the HIV virus and an alarmingly low T-cell count. But he reacts with hostility to doctors Sevard (Denis O’Hare) and Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), interpreting their diagnosis as a slur on his rampantly heterosexual masculinity.
After some hard-partying denial, the stark reality of his deteriorating health prompts Ron to start researching the virus. Unwilling to take his chances in clinical trials for the new drug AZT, he begins buying doses from a crooked hospital orderly. But when that supply dries up, he crosses the border to Mexico, where an unlicensed American doctor (Griffin Dunne) is getting results with alternative treatments.
Translating his own urgent need for medication into an entrepreneurial opportunity, Ron begins smuggling supplies of vitamin- and protein-based anti-viral meds into Texas. In order to build a client base among the unfamiliar gay community, he partners with a drug-addicted transsexual he met in hospital, Rayon (Jared Leto), who isn’t scared off by bigoted Ron’s animosity.
To get around potential legal strife they establish a club in which monthly membership buys a full treatment regimen. Ron also begins traveling – to Japan, China, the Netherlands – for AIDS drugs being developed abroad, undeterred by the attempts of the FDA, the DEA and the IRS to shut him down.
The contemplative movie doesn’t advocate self-medication, nor does it trivialize the long and hard-fought frontline battle for effective HIV treatment in America (see last year’s brilliant doc, How to Survive a Plague) by elevating the rogue efforts of a straight guy. It tells a very specific story of one AIDS patient’s refusal to slink off and die quietly while the medical profession and pharmaceutical giants dragged their heels, focusing almost exclusively on prohibitively expensive AZT and ignoring its toxic side effects.
While that shameful chapter of American institutional failure to address a pandemic is explored only peripherally here, it provides rich background texture. Likewise the homophobic ignorance directed at Ron by his former drinking buddies, giving him an illuminating taste of his own intolerance.
But what distinguishes Borten and Wallack’s screenplay is its refusal to sentimentalize by providing humbling epiphanies to set Ron on the right path and endow him with empathy. His racket remains driven primarily by self-interest, and yet almost unwittingly, his crusade for the right to control his treatment becomes an altruistic one, while his attitude toward people he once scorned softens by imperceptible degrees.
McConaughey plays these subtle shifts beautifully in a rowdy turn that’s full of piss and vinegar but also unexpected heart. Ron is presented as such irredeemable trash early on that it requires an actor who can own the rough edges but also has real charm deployment skills to keep him in our sympathies. McConaughey aces that tricky balancing act. He has affecting moments, both with Garner and Leto, but the surprise is how funny he makes the story of a man pushing back death.
Garner’s role has less dimension, but she brings a lot of warmth as Eve comes around to admiring Ron’s resourcefulness and recognizing the merit in what he’s doing. In the showier supporting role, Leto is simply wonderful. Fully inhabiting Rayon, he makes the slender creature anything but synthetic, his flirtatious banter poignantly underscored by helpless self-destructiveness.September 8, 2013 at 8:12 am #110012
Dallas Buyers Club looks poised to receive nominations in Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. The transformative performance by McConaughey is tailor-made for accolades and demands to be recognized. Leto, meanwhile also undergoes a strong transformation and seems to have a showy supporting role (transsexual, AIDS and drug addict). The film seems too uneven to receive many more nominations, however that might change if it really connects with audiences. The film certainly seems like a sure fire contender in many categories at the IndieSpirit Awards (Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor and maybe even Supporting Actress).
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