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
  • Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    As a founding member of the Grateful Dead, Bill Kreutzmann watched the world change from behind his drum kit, shoveling coal in the wildly tribal rhythm section as the Dead went from San Francisco underground curio to ground-breaking indie outfit, then progenitor of the improvisation-based rock...

  • Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    The cliché that colors every good rock star story is “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll." For the Grateful Dead, the trailblazing rock band known for its improvisational style, revelatory live shows and dedicated fanbase, there was that and so much more.

  • 10 best movies of 2015 so far

    10 best movies of 2015 so far

    The year’s half over! How did that happen? No idea. With six months of a good year of movies in the books, let’s see how the Top 10 list is looking, with a quote from each respective review. Note: There are a few I’ve seen that I really like that haven’t yet opened in Chicago, and those aren’t...

  • If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    Nearly 5 million more Americans would qualify for overtime pay under new rules proposed Tuesday by the Obama administration, a long-anticipated move expected to affect a broad swath of salaried employees from store managers to social workers to restaurant shift supervisors.

  • Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Unlike previous summers, UniStaff is experiencing a spike in job applicants at its Little Village location, a trend the branch manager says is tied to the city's minimum wage increase to $10 per hour beginning Wednesday.

  • 'The Bachelorette' episode 7 recap: How many meltdowns can Shawn have in one week?

    'The Bachelorette' episode 7 recap: How many meltdowns can Shawn have in one week?

    Welcome to RedEye’s coverage of “The Bachelorette,” arguably the most misogynistic show on television! The format is pretty simple: Five women of RedEye each drafted five of the 25 competing men. Everyone gets one point for every man who gets through each week. If you ever want your daughter to...

Comments
Loading