January 24, 2013
Dallas Buyers Club seemed like a movie destined for greatness - what with Woody Harrelson on board back in the 90s, then Brad Pitt, on to Ryan Gosling, and finally the great Gael Garcia Bernal. Few could have bet that Matthew McConaughey would be the one to bring it to the Oscars.
Unless, of course, you had been following him since Rick Linklater's Dazed and Confused. In the last few years, he added The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie, Mud, Killer Joe, Magic Mike, The Wolf of Wall Street and now True Detectives. He is one of those guys you need to check out in every new movie he makes. He is that original. And tenacious.
Yes, he spent a few cocky years flaunting his pretty face and undulating abs, but he never relied on those assets for growth, talent or success. Thank goodness.
Famously, McConaughey lost 47 pounds to play an HIV-positive redneck Texas cowboy, based on Ron Woodroof's real-life battle with illness, prejudice, the medical community and the Feds.
The cowboy part and the Dallas part are natural to him - he was born a boasting Texan and he owns a Texas ranch. Since a Texas cowboy with AIDS has few prototypes, Matthew used Woodroof's diary as a threshold into the character, and with his unique brand of acting he makes the role authentic.
Plenty of support and inspiration was provided by Jared Leto, who plays his transvestite sidekick/adversary, Rayon. (Already it feels like too many spoilers.) So much of the magnetism of the film is infused through the fresh grip the actors hold on the twists and turns that fate flings at two opposite guys who share the same goal: to prolong their painful lives while condemned to die an agonizing death.
The time and place are cast as major players in the story. The state of Texas is many things, but in the 80's, it was not enlightened. A macho straight cowboy could never catch a faggot disease, and a beautiful boy would have to be a sicko to wear make-up and gowns.
So I recommend the movie for the lively surprises: for its heart, for its heartlessness, for its heartbreak, and for its hearty laughs.
So what exactly is a "Buyers Club?" I am saving a few secrets for your viewing.
There were almost none. Just three deleted scenes (check out the second one) and "A Look Inside Dallas Buyers Club" featurette.
The latter is an elongated trailer and a synopsis of the story through excerpts from the film. It's a satisfying retell of the movie but has none of the engaging and enlightening info that McConaughey and Leto have already shared elsewhere on interview shows. Matthew, Jared and Jennifer Garner (who plays the sympathetic Dr. Eve Saks) make brief appearances but there is no word from Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée. (Luckily for you, you can see some of them here.)
The shortcomings are understandable from a business perspective - DVDs are an important tool in the Oscar race. There hasn't been time to produce a proper Extras package.
Since all these issues, prejudices and misunderstandings persist today, albeit refashioned by the changing times, I propose a Dallas Buyers Club five year anniversary edition. Why not include an update of some of the efforts to improve the lives facing the victims - both medically and legally? Both the headways and the setbacks.
How about some made-for-DVD interviews?
Studio: Universal Studios
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Denis O'Hare, Steve Zahn
Length: 1 hour, 57 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English SDH and Spanish