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Dallas Buyers Club (A Movie Review)

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club

Once upon a time, early on in his career, Matthew McConaughey was a respected actor. When he first broke out in the 90s with diverse roles in movies like Dazed & Confused, A Time To Kill and Lone Star, the sky seemed to be the limit for this young talent.

Fast forward a little more than a decade and McConaughey has smashed that promise to pieces on the rocks of a decade of almost non-stop bad choices.  Well at least artistically, as so often happens in Hollywood, the more he sold out the bigger a star he became.  Still, looking back at the wreckage of awful romantic comedies (way too many to list), cheesy inspirational dramas (such as We Are Marshall, Two For the Money and U-571) and the occasional bad vanity project (Surfer, Dude and Tropic Thunder), McConaughey’s reputation was in tatters.

A few years ago, McConaughey made a surprising decision – particularly surprising for an actor who has shown no particular taste in projects, nor hesitation to put the money above the project.  McConaughey finally realized that he was rich enough and he could romance Kate Hudson or Jennifer Garner in his sleep (which he usually did), so he was going to resurrect his career artistically, even if it meant taking smaller paychecks in quirkier, independent-minded films.

The first taste we got of the new McConaughey was in the supporting role of a hard-headed Sheriff in Richard Linklater’s black comedy Bernie.  Since then he has shown his sincerity in his new career strategy with the likes of Mud, The Paperboy, the upcoming HBO series True Detective and this film.  Even when he takes a Hollywood blockbuster role, like the aging stripper in Magic Mike or an upcoming part in The Wolf of Wall Street, it’s a supporting gig in a smart, intriguing piece of Hollywood product.

The opening of Dallas Buyers Club almost feels like a backslide to bad era McConaughey: Rodeo bull rider Matt dispassionately experiencing a threesome with two gorgeous, willing fans in a horse stall. 

However, this is not a take on Matthew McConaughey the carefree lover man, Dallas Buyers Club has a much more serious and darker agenda.

Dallas Buyers Club is based on the true story of Ron Woodruff, a bigoted redneck loser with addictions to drugs and sex who finds out in the mid-80s that he is HIV-positive.  The doctor told him that he probably had 30 days to live. 

This was in the early days of AIDS, in which a lot of fear and ignorance abounded, the strongest being that it was a “gay disease.”  The ferociously homophobic Woodruff at first refuses to believe that he has the disease at all, and the film never quite tells whether he contracted it in one of his many meaningless flings with women or, as a very quick flashback suggests, that he may have gotten really drunk once and did a little experimenting with bisexuality.

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