Jean-Marc Valée’s latest film reaches British screens with the full weight of awards season behind it.
It’s easy to be cynical about the relationship between the Academy and a film like Dallas Buyers Club. Revolving around a grandstanding performance, on which much of the lauding has rested, and most certainly an “issues” movie, Valée’s retelling of the life of Ron Woodruff, a hard-living, blue-collar worker who contracts AIDS and is given only 30 days to live hits all the tropes and cliches of the stereotypical awards picture.
That isn’t to take anything away from the aforementioned grandstanding performance. The renaissance of Matthew McConaughey continues apace, with the actor’s most overt work to date. Such overtness can carry with it a sense of the heavy-handed, and while McConaughey largely avoids such behaviour, one might accuse the film in general of projecting such an aura. Much has been made of Jared Leto’s secondary performance, as Woodruff’s drug-reliant transgender companion, and rightfully so: it’s a touching, strong performance, with an emotional kick that resonates throughout the film. Woodruff is an unlikeable figure, with his homophobic lambasting and a general unruliness placing him firmly against the character type that one might hope to root for. The combination of affecting performance and chemistry ensures that he’s an appealing on-screen presence.
While well-shot and competently made, the film itself is ultimately lacking. One can’t help but feel that the most interesting aspects (the corruption of the medical industry) have been done elsewhere before, and more effectively, and while there’s enough of a momentum for the film to maintains ones interest for the two hour duration it all falls flat when removed from that echo chamber.