Leto outshines McConaughey in ‘Dallas Buyer’s Club’
Dallas Buyers Club
When Texan cowboy Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is diagnosed with HIV, he is prescribed a highly toxic drug and given thirty days to live. Refusing to accept this death sentence, Woodroof taps into the world of underground pharmaceuticals and becomes a kingpin of an unapproved alternative treatment that is both restorative and life extending. His crash course of research reveals a lack of approved treatments and medications in the U.S., so Ron crosses the border into Mexico. There, he learns about alternative treatments and begins smuggling them into the U.S., challenging the medical and scientific community including his concerned physician, Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner). An outsider to the gay community, Ron finds an unlikely ally in fellow AIDS patient Rayon (Jared Leto), a transsexual who shares Ron’s lust for life. With a growing community of friends and clients, Ron fights for dignity, education, and acceptance.
McConaughey continues his recent string of challenging and different roles with his portrayal of Woodruff, though the film itself is just a well-directed biopic that follows the familiar conventions of these films to the letter. While Wooodruff’s story is one that is truly unique and has never been addressed in a big budget film, his character comes off as little more than a hustler scheming and conniving for that next dollar, despite how many people he ends up helping along the way. McConaughey is good in the role, though some of his other recent efforts are much better, but is overshadowed in almost every way by his co-star Leto. Leto manages to completely immerse himself into the role of Rayon in a very special way and takes what could have easily become a clichéd gay sidekick and infuses his character with life and pathos. It’s a brilliant performance and Leto himself goes through as much of a body transformation as McConaughey for the role.
Garner is pretty much wasted though in a thankless role that gives her little to do but pout and emote without having any real effect. Her character it seems exists to give a bridge between Woodruff and the doctor that becomes one of Woodruff’s main nemeses. Dallas Roberts is also underutilized in a role that seems to have been lost a bit to the cutting room as Woodruff’s thankless attorney, put upon many times over by his client to help him procure drugs and keep him out of jail.
The film follows Wooodruff’s story through many montages and explosive monologues, as do most biopics, as the story itself spans well over a year in the time of Woodruff’s life. Director Jean-Marc Vallée shows a strong guiding hand behind the camera, but ultimately it’s the conventions of the genre and the script itself that lets the director down. Vallée’s original efforts like C.R.A.Z.Y. and Café de Flore are so unique and engaging it’s a shame that Dallas Buyers Club can’t use more of these qualities. Dallas Buyer’s Club is worth the admission price for Leto’s performance alone, notwithstanding the decent turn from McConaughey, but sadly the film overall is merely good when Vallée has proven in the past that he can deliver greatness.
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