Tuesday 18 February 2014


Maybe I shouldn't have hoped for something exceptional because I found that this film (director: Jean-Marc Vallee), although pretty good, didn't come into that category.
Starting in the mid 1980s, Matthew McConaughey is totally convincing as a Texan, drug-addicted, 'redneck', with all the "I'm-a-real-man" rampant homophobia one tends to associate with such characters. His scary loss of weight as the film progresses is remarkable. I was wondering into what dangers he'd put himself, as he surely must have done.

Yet another film 'based' on a true story, I have heard it said that not only is there no record that the real Ron Woodroof was anti-gay, but he may well actually have been bisexual. However, true or not, dramatic licence makes it more effective if he is shown as having been a bigot of the first order when he's told the result of a blood test revealing him as being HIV+, he having acquired the virus through contaminated needles. His initial reaction is one of incredulity, seeing it necessary to underline his macho 'credentials' by slurring gays - and pointing out that he rides in the rodeo! However, through his experience and association with other AIDS sufferers he gradually comes to the realisation of the error of his attitudes. His frustration at having to wait for clinical trials of hopeful drugs to be successful and approved before acquiring them, which might possibly delay the onset of full-blown AIDS, leads him to Mexico where he obtains a number of medications, at first just for himself at first. But then he sees business potential in offering to service the clear demand for the drugs, smuggling them over the border back into Texas in significant quantities, which he can dispense to fellow sufferers for free, his costs being recouped by a hefty monthly subscription to the 'club' of the film's title. In this he's assisted by a transexual (Jared Leto) with whom he'd become a reluctant acquaintance in hospital. The principal enemy against his 'enterprise' is not just the F.D.A. (employing the police to seize his stocks periodically), but also the drug companies whose main concern appears to be to protect their own profits.
The principal female role is Jennifer Garner as a sympathetic, white-coated hospital doctor torn between knowing that what he's doing is highly illegal yet wanting him to survive and succeed.

I found the film's earnestness and good intentions, which it really wore on its sleeve throughout, a bit over-bearing. Comparisons will be made with the Tom Hanks film, 'Philadelphia', and when that is watched now, over 20 years later, it possesses those very same traits, perhaps even moreso. But that latter film was a trailblazer for depiction of the subject of AIDS, at least for mainstream cinema. Now, with the significant advances of medicine in recent years, it's become very much a period piece. The attitudes of the 1980s, though still unchanged in certain areas, have, I think, become less commonplace, so that too fixes 'Dallas Buyers Club'  in that era, though there's nothing wrong in that, being a chronicle of the time.

I think there are very few scenes lasting more than about three minutes, those with Leto barely giving him much to do in extended fashion, but I did like the film's snappy jump-cutting which treats its audience as having the intelligence to follow it, as well as having the very practical advantage of keeping me on my toes.  But at just slightly under two hours (which now seems to be the new standard length of films these days) I felt it a good 20 minutes too long. It seemed to be prolonged without saying anything new or showing any significant development in storyline. Having said that, McConaughey's final appearances were extraordinary, looking so thin, light and fragile that any slight breeze could blow him away.

Overall, it's still a recommendation, but I think anyone with lower expectations than I had may take more from it than was the case with me.....................................6.5


  1. I share your thoughts on this one. However, McConaughey and Leto, however brief his scenes are, are so Oscar-worthy that I'm hoping for a win for both of them.

    Btw, I watched the BAFTA awards and was disappointed that McConaughey and Leto were completely ignored. It appears that compared to the Oscar presentation, what with the red carpet and all, BAFTA keeps it really simple.

    1. Paul, word has it here that McConaughy is a near dead-cert for the Oscar, and I wouldn't argue much against it if he does pick it up, though with regrets that it'd mean that Ejiofor, no less deserving, would have missed out.
      I didn't think Leto, with his several, but bite-sized, appearances in this film had a real chance to 'fly'.
      I believe it was a quirk of release dates which prevented this film being considered among the BAFTAs. If so M McM., at least, could well appear on next year's list, by which time most will have forgotten about this role and he won't have much of a chance of winning. But that's the way the cookie crumbles.

      The BAFTAs ceremony is okay, usually bright and breezy, but the more they try to trim it down, the more the winners' speeches tend to grate on me.

  2. I very much enjoy your reviews.

    1. Thanks for reiterating that, Dr Spo. Pleased that you've not been put off from continuing to read them - so far.

    2. Oh, I read them all. I'm at a disadvantage i don't go to cinema often, so I don't see the majority of these films. However, I like to hear about them. more so - what you think about them.

    3. Tomorrow I plan to see a film which will be of especial interest to you, Dr Spo, more than most of my blog readers, I think - that is if I can keep this pesky cold of mine at bay, the first I've had in about 10 years. Watch this space.