Dallas Buyer’s Club

Year: 2014
Production Co: Truth Entertainment
Studio: Focus Features
Director: Jean-Marc Valeé
Writer: Craig Borten/Melissa Wallack
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennfier Garner, Denis O'Hare, Steve Zahn

Sometimes there's a fine line between a midday movie of the week and an Oscar hopeful, and sometimes it can be hard to see. In the case of Dallas Buyer's Club, it might only be that big name actors are game for transformations the likes of which jobbing actors do every day – in this case the hunky Matthew McConaughey looking reedy and sick and chameleon rock star Jared Leto playing a transvestite AIDS sufferer (always awards bait).

In fact you can almost see the moment in the film when all the Academy members will be wiping away a single tear and ticking Leto's name on their ballot form. Comfortable and freely himself in womens' clothes and wigs throughout the film, Rayon (Leto) goes to see his estranged father, stilted and supremely uncomfortable in a suit and tie. "God help me," his clearly disgusted father mumbles. "He is," Rayon says without skipping a beat, "I have AIDS."

It's 1985, a time when HIV was still a death sentence and the cause of many an irrational fear, when macho electrician and rodeo cowboy Ron (McConaughey) learns he's contracted the disease he and his beer-swilling contemporaries all assume can only be caught if you're one of those queers and faggots.

Fighting to hold onto his sense of self worth after told he has only months to live, Ron learns about the new drug on the market, AZT, and hustles a hospital orderly to get it for him. But it's not long before Ron learns about a whole unofficial culture of alternative treatments proven to work while many consider AZT not fully tested, maybe even a poison.

After going to Mexico and procuring a cocktail that makes him feel better, Ron sees a market opportunity and starts to cash in on it, forming the not-quite-illegal marketing enterprise of the title.

But in grand issues movie tradition, it introduces him to a whole world of people like Rayon he never considered worthy of attention, finds the humanity there and starts to respond with his own.

The McConaissance continues as McConaughey turns in another affecting performance when his megawatt smile and hear-it-a-mile away Texan drawl could have been the only things anyone remembers about him. Leto's return to the screen after concentrating on his band 30 Seconds to Mars deserves recognition of a major talent, as many of the awards circuits have already agreed. It feels overlong more than once and there's no flourish in the script or direction, so it's a movie to learn from more than enjoy. But in keeping it no-nonsense, director Valleé has crafted a strong story well told.

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