27) Dallas Buyers Club [7.5]

Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof, whose free-wheeling life was overturned in 1985 when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. These were the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and the U.S. was divided over how to combat the virus. Ron, now shunned and ostracized by many of his old friends, and bereft of government-approved effective medicines, decided to take matters in his own hands, tracking down alternative treatments from all over the world by means both legal and illegal. Bypassing the establishment, the entrepreneurial Woodroof joined forces with an unlikely band of renegades and outcasts – who he once would have shunned – and established a hugely successful “buyers’ club.” (2013)

Dallas Buyers Club succeeds via restraint. Director Jean-Marc Vallée shoots the film without any grand flourishes or touches that distract from the narrative. The physical transformation of the two leads is truly something, but the performances by both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto overshadow the visual shock of their appearance. In two scenes, each featuring one of those actors, their characters begin breaking down and crying. There’s such a rawness in both their performances in these scenes that is absolutely heartbreaking.

The easiest way to slam Dallas Buyers Club is to put it in that awful category of Oscar Bait. Sure, some aspects of the movie make it eligible: two physical transformations (usually only one in movies such as Christian Bale in The Machinist, Charlize Theron in Monster or Robert de Niro in Raging Bull), characters suffering from life threatening diseases and a story based on true events. That being said, Dallas Buyers Club is a fascinating look at a man who doesn’t believe in his supposedly impending death, as well as the grey line of helping people while profiting off them.

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