Entertainment Entertainment Movies

'Dallas Buyers Club' review: Don't mess with McConaughey

*** (out of four)

The Matthew McConaughey of “Dallas Buyers Club” is not the muscular, Mr. “all right all right all right” of “Magic Mike,” a performance that contained expert and under-appreciated depth beneath the bluster. As real-life activist and AIDS patient Ron Woodroof, McConaughey looks thin. Small. He reportedly lost close to 40 pounds for the role, which isn’t Christian Bale-in-“The Machinist” gaunt, but it’s not far from it.

When the film begins in July 1985, Ron’s contributing next to nothing to society. He’s a minimally employed electrician and part-time rodeo bull rider, running away from lost bets and sleeping with anyone who’s interested. Then, a shock: He tests positive for HIV. Denial becomes devastation as the rider becomes the ridden. But you know what happens when you mess with the bull.

At its core, “Dallas Buyers Club” is a story about shifting priorities and challenging the unchallengeable. Ron, a proud homophobe and racist fond of the six-letter F-word, would be the last person you’d expect to partner with Rayon (Jared Leto), a transgender woman also suffering from the virus. Yet results from Ron’s last-ditch effort at prolonging his life—rebelling against a system that only approves use of AZT, which seems to have negative effects—adjust his mission and perspective. McConaughey’s excellent in a performance that doesn’t have a big, quintessential Oscar moment, probably because he’s an actor who never overplays like that. It’s another highlight in a career rejuvenation that’s been a treat to watch.

As a dramatic counterpart to last year’s “How to Survive A Plague,” “Dallas” struggles in trying to hit marks of storytelling, social consciousness and occasionally funny entertainment value. Jennifer Garner plays a doctor slowly beginning to believe Ron’s skepticism of AZT; it’s the sort of subplotty part that may be based in reality but doesn’t feel like it.

Where the film excels is the tension—between bigots and their targets, activists and the FDA, life and death. Something tells me many viewers will respond to Ron’s fight against a government that doesn’t always hinge on common sense.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.

 

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Man fatally shot after argument over woman at South Loop lounge
    Man fatally shot after argument over woman at South Loop lounge

    An argument over a woman led to one man being killed and another wounded during a shooting inside a South Loop music lounge early Saturday, police said.

  • Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise
    Oklahoma fraternity's racist chant learned on a cruise

    Members of a University of Oklahoma fraternity apparently learned a racist chant that recently got their chapter disbanded during a national leadership cruise four years ago that was sponsored by the fraternity's national administration, the university's president said Friday.

  • In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing
    In NYC building collapse, mayor cites 'inappropriately' tapped gas line; 2 missing

    Someone may have improperly tapped a gas line before an explosion that leveled three apartment buildings and injured nearly two dozen people, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday as firefighters soaked the still-smoldering buildings and police searched for at least two missing people.

  • Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden
    Emanuel uses borrowing to cope with Daley's debt burden

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel has reduced spending and increased fines, fees and certain taxes to shrink the chronic budget deficits left over from his predecessor, Richard M. Daley.

  • Six Flags Great America's lost attractions
    Six Flags Great America's lost attractions

    Not every ride's the Willard's Whizzer. That iconic coaster debuted in 1976 when Marriott's Great America, now Six Flags Great America, in Gurnee, Ill., first opened. And it's still popular today. But for every Whizzer there's a Tidal Wave, Shockwave or Z-Force, rides existing only in memory.

  • Denim's just getting started
    Denim's just getting started

    Five years ago, denim-on-denim defied all of the dire warnings in the "Undateable" handbook: Instead of evoking John Denver or Britney Spears in her misstyled youth, chambray shirts paired with darker blue jeans became as cool as actor Johnny Depp and street-style heroine Alexa Chung.

Comments
Loading