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Dallas Buyers Club - Review

Dallas Buyers Club

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

MATTHEW McConaughey continues his career renaissance in astonishing fashion in Dallas Buyers Club, a film based upon a similarly remarkable true story.

He plays fun-loving, womanising electrician Ron Woodroof who, in 1985 – and much to his disgust – was diagnosed with AIDs and given days to live. Determined to fight back, Woodroof began importing non-approved pharmaceutical drugs from Mexico that kept his symptoms at bay and then founded a subscriber based buyers’ club that enabled him to dish out those drugs to fellow sufferers, thereby extending other people’s lives while staying within the law.

In becoming such an unlikely hero at the height of the AIDs epidemic, Woodroof also cast aside his own homophobic tendencies while becoming a thorn in the side of the authorities.

Jean-Marc Vallée’s film doesn’t seek to sugar coat the issue or cover Woodroof in rose-tinted glory, being delivered in a raw, naturalistic even fly-on-the-wall kind of way that poses as many questions about attitudes to sex and illness as it does the US pharmaceutical industry.

But at its heart also lies a character-driven story in which humanity is allowed to shine in the most dire of circumstances.

As such, McConaughey is able to deliver a warts-and-all transformation (he lost 45lbs to play the role) as disease strips him of his former values (and friends) and forces him into selfless decision making and heartfelt friendships.

Primary among these is his relationship with Rayon (Jared Leto), a dying, AIDs ridden drug addict who becomes an unlikely business partner, ally and friend. Leto, who also lost 30lbs to play the role, also astonishes, delivering a fully rounded, cliche free portrayal of Rayon that is as heartbreaking as it is inspired.

And Jennifer Garner also leaves an impression as the doctor who comes to side with Ron and even befriend him, offering a similarly unlikely romance.

Admittedly, both the characters played by Leto and Garner are fictitious but they are designed to be representative of the many people co-writers Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack spoke to during the course of their research. The remainder of the film, meanwhile, is said to remain close to the real events, with McConaughey again singled out as being particularly strong at having captured Woodroof’s spirit.

He and Leto remain the compelling reason for seeing the film but Dallas Buyers Club has so much more to offer. It’s an empowering, eye-opening and deeply emotional experience that demands to be seen.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 116mins
UK Release Date: February 7, 2014