Salisbury Press

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Movie Review: McConaughey Oscar-worthy

Wednesday, December 4, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

"Dallas Buyers Club" provides an alternative view of the Texas metropolis.

While the film's title might sound like the name of a club those on Bravo's "Real Housewives of Dallas" (set for a 2014 telecast start) might belong to, or a QVC telemarketing spinoff, "Dallas Buyers Club" is about a company organized to provide what was purported to be H.I.V.-positive antidotes soon after the virus was identified.

"Dallas Buyers Club," said to be based on a true story, stars Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, founder of the club, in what should be an Oscar actor-nominated performance.

Also look for an Oscar supporting actor nomination for Jared Leto as a cross-dressing AIDS-victim, Rayon, and an Oscar supporting actress nomination for Jennifer Garner as a Dallas medical doctor, Dr. Eve Saks.

Ron Woodroof (McConaughey), an electrician in the Texas oil fields and sometimes rodeo bull rider, is diagnosed as being H.I.V.-positive. Woodroof, depicted in the film as a stereotypical Texas good ole boy, is dismayed because he's homophobic and H.I.V. was diagnosed in the gay community in the United States.

It's the early days of AZT treatments of H.I.V-positive patients. Woodroof resists the medical program, claiming AZT is as bad as the disease itself.

Woodroof traveled to Mexico, where a former medical doctor, Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne), has developed a "cocktail" of medicines and supplements said to be an effective H.I.V. antidote.

Since the antidotes weren't approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Woodroof isn't a medical doctor, prescriptions and sales are illegal. Those who request the concoction pay a $400 to join the Dallas Buyers Club and obtain the "antidote" for free.

Woodroof, given 30 days to live, is told "to put your affairs in order" by Dr. Sevard (Denis O'Hare). The film's closing titles state that Woodroof lived for seven years after his diagnosis.

The screenplay by Melisa Wallack (screen stories for "Mirror, Mirror," 2012; "Meet Bill," 2007) and Craig Borten depicts the life of Ron Woodroof in all its seedy glory.

Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée ("The Young Victoria," 2009) uses lots of close-ups, casual camera angles and quick edits to tell the story in a fast-paced, sometimes shocking, often humorous and always intriguing style.

At the center of "Dallas Buyers Club" are three fine performances. Jennifer Garner creates empathy as a doctor who sympathizes with Woodroof's plight. Jared Leto ("Lord of War," 2005; "Fight Club," 1999) is incredible as a young transvestite who brings out the humanity in Woodroof.

Matthew McConaughey ("Mud," "Magic Mike," both 2012) is all jangly and rough edges with an angularity to his performance that makes his cowboy hat seem to be perched precariously atop his cowboy-boot gaunt frame. McConaughey is almost unrecognizable as he burrows into the role with a furtive intensity that has to be seen to be appreciated.

Effective in a supporting role as a policeman is Steve Zahn.

"Dallas Buyers Club" is a fascinating glimpse into a slice of time when the certain segments of the American population were in a near panic about H.I.V. and AIDS. While Woodroof's unorthodox and, at the time, illegal approach brought the FDA and other law-enforcement authorities down on him, aspects of his approach were apparently later adopted by the medical community, according to the film's closing credits.

"Dallas Buyers Club" might not be the kind of film that all movie-goers will want to see. However, it's worth viewing as yet another reality-based feature that merits Oscar consideration.

"Dallas Buyers Club": MPAA rated R (Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.) for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, nudity and drug use; Genre: Biography, Drama, History; Run time: 1 hr. 57 min.; Distributed by Focus Features.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Although "Dallas Buyers Club" is set in Dallas, Texas, it was filmed in New Orleans, La.

Box Office, Nov. 29: "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" lit up the top spot two weeks in a row, No. 1 with $74.5 million, $296.5 million, two weeks, freezing out "Frozen," with a hot $66.7 million, $93.3 million, two weeks;

3. "Thor: The Dark World," $11.1 million, $186.7 million, four weeks; 4. "The Best Man Holiday," $8.4 million, $63.4 million, three weeks; 5. "Homefront," $6.9 million, weekend, $9.7 million, since Nov. 27 opening ; 6. "Delivery Man," $6.9 million, $19.4 million, two weeks; 7. "The Book Thief," $4.8 million, $7.8 million, four weeks; 8. "Black Nativity," $3.8 million, weekend; $5 million, since Nov. 27 opening; 9. "Philomena," $3.7 million, $4.7 million, two weeks; "10. Last Vegas," $2.7 million, $58.7 million, five weeks

Box Office, Nov. 22: "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" lived up to its hype, opening at No. 1 with $158 million, best opening ever in November, sixth-biggest opening ever, third all-time for 2D-only movies, and more than the $152-million opening last March of the first in the series.

"Thor: The Dark World" got hammered to No. 2 after two straight weeks at No. 1, $14.1 million, $167.9 million, three weeks.

3. "The Best Man Holiday," $12.4 million, $50.3 million, two weeks; 4. "Delivery Man," "$7.9 million, opening; 5. "Free Birds," $5.3 million, $48.6 million, four weeks; 6."Last Vegas," $4.3 million, $53.8 million, four weeks; 7. "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa," $3.4 million, $95.4 million, five weeks; 8.."Gravity," $3.2 million, $245.4 million, eight weeks; 9. "12 Years A Slave," $2.8 million, $29.4 million, six weeks; 10. "Dallas Buyers Club," $2.6 million, $6.3 million, four weeks

Unreel, Dec. 6:

"Out of the Furnace," R; Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana and Woody Harrelson star in the crime thriller about a vigilante.

"Inside Llewyn Davis," R: The Coen Brothers direct a fiction drama about a week in the life of a folksinger, said to be loosely based on Dave Van Ronk, the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1961. Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund and John Goodman.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site,; the Times-News web site,; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, and, where they're archived. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@ You can follow Paul Willistein on Twitter and friend Paul Willistein on facebook.