Dallas Buyers Club is based on the true story of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), a bigoted Texan who is diagnosed HIV-positive, and sets up a business selling medication to fellow patients.
This is a drama that rests entirely on its performances. Matthew McConaughey continues to go from strength to strength, slimming down drastically and breathing humanity into an initially repugnant character. Jared Leto undertakes a similar transformation, stealing scenes as transgender woman Rayon. Jennifer Garner rounds off the talented cast, as the kind-hearted doctor Eve.
With these strong actors at the helm, Dallas Buyers Club starts well, but fizzles out over two hours. I don’t know if it’s a case of sticking too closely to the real story or just poor plotting, but it definitely lands on a lacklustre note. As Woodroof’s rough edges are smoothed off, so are the film’s, which veers towards the sentimental with a disappointing sense of inevitability. This would be forgivable if the film was deeply moving, but it’s not. At all. In fact, it’s curiously difficult to become emotionally invested in the drama.
At the same time, it’s easy to see why the Academy adore it. There are big performances, uncontroversial messages and a predictable sense of liberal safety. Although it appears to be politically interesting on the surface, Dallas Buyers Club is probably about as subversive as The One Show. The all-American hetero-hero saves the gays through good old Reaganite capitalist spirit. All it’s really saying is don’t take drugs, don’t have sex and try not to be gay.