"Dallas Buyers Club" (2013)- Movie Review

Directed by Jean-Marc Valee
Written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner

‘A Movie with a Life-Affirming Message’

You rarely ever see movies that connect with you on an emotional level. Most leave your mind as soon as you walk out of the theater only satisfied by entertainment. Others lack insight or a memorable message.

One might argue that the main goal of any movie is to entertain. Surely, but when a film doesn’t offer anything beyond entertainment it often leaves no room for enlightenment or an emotional pull. Viewers looking for originality or uniqueness in movies are left disappointed while the appetite of audiences looking to pass time are fulfilled.

I’ve seen a few movies this year that have connected with me on an emotional level, yet none have been as moving as “Dallas Buyers Club”. A life-changing, heartbreaking and deeply inspirational film about the courage that it takes to hope when your life is turned upside down, it offers an emotional experience unlike any I’ve ever seen. It makes you cry, laugh and cheer in celebration even when it deals with a depressing subject like AIDS. To watch a movie on such a harrowing topic isn’t always easy, but how often do you come across a movie that is this emotionally resonant?

To be honest, nearly never. Movies are usually forgotten when you don’t connect with them on an emotional level or if they fail to deliver a memorable message. “Dallas Buyers Club” is a film that touched my heart like no movie has been able to in recent memory, and there are many strong reasons why it is one of the best films of the year.

It isn’t always that you come across directors that have the courage to tackle a controversial subject like Jean-Marc Valee. In an age where box-office numbers hold a greater importance than storytelling, most filmmakers today are afraid to dive into topics that may cause controversy.  This is certainly not the case with Valee. A director with a brave trademark style, he examines important issues that the world faces today.

With “Dallas Buyers Club”, it appears at a first glance as if Valee is tackling the subject for a rather serious film, yet what’s befuddling is that it isn’t. Despite dealing with the depressing subject of AIDS, the film is surprisingly also funny. It is not easy to add humor into a topic that normally makes you cry, yet the movie magically does. At times, it is rather solemn and brings a tear to your eye while in other scenes it is unexpectedly comical to watch. Though this may seem strange, the two moods perfectly blend together and it is all a testament to Jean-Marc Valee’s extraordinary talent as a director.

When you’re dealing with a topic that damages the lives of many around the world, it is quite difficult to create humor without coming across as offensive, yet with “Dallas Buyers Club”, Jean-Marc Valee displays a boldness as a director that you don’t see often in movies.

Starring Matthew McConaughey in the leading role, the film centers on the life of a detestable, yet courageous man whose life falls apart when he is diagnosed with AIDS in 1985. Unwilling to give up hope, he decides to bravely find a cure for the disease, even when he is given a short time to live.

Having seen many movies that have managed to add humor into serious subjects, I can already spot inspirations behind this film, but as a whole it is unlike any movie I’ve seen this year. Although it’s combination of humor and drama reminded me of films like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “50/50”, I found it to be thoroughly distinct and unique. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime reminder that movies can mean so much more than just entertainment.

The performances are phenomenal, the writing is magnificent and the direction is something to marvel at. This is one of those special movies that stays with you throughout your life, allowing you to see the world in ways you never knew existed.

Like I previously mentioned, director Jean Marc-Valee’s courage to tackle a serious subject with humor in this film is jaw-dropping. Not many directors today are brave enough to provide comedy when dealing with depressing topics, yet with “Dallas Buyers Club”, Valee proves himself to be a talent to be reckoned with.

In recent memory, no screenplay has featured characters that are as fascinating as the ones in “Dallas Buyers Club”. Larger-than-life, believable and highly complex, they feel astonishingly real. In fact, there are moments during this film where you almost forget that you’re watching made-up characters. Instead, you see real people whom you can easily identify with even when they are involved in hateful activities. It certainly isn’t an easy job to make an audience care for unlikable characters, however, “Dallas Buyers Club” is one of the few movies I’ve seen that manages to pull of this feat.

It is also beautifully shot with a memorable style that is so realistic that you almost forget that you’re watching a movie. From emotionally powerful close-ups to long, involving scenes in which the hand-held camera simply observes conversations between characters, the cinematography gives the film a dark and intense atmosphere. It is amazing how even though the movie uses shaky-camera, it never interferes with the viewing experience. The documentary-style of filmmaking hits the nail on the head in making you believe that this is a story that could have happened for real.

It is hard to not gape in awe at the fantastic performances from the cast. With “Dallas Buyers Club”, comes the rare opportunity to witness some of the bravest acting ever committed to screen. Each of the actors are at the top of their games, bringing their characters to life in unforgettable turns.

Matthew McConaughey delivers an extraordinary performance as a rebellious, yet courageous man that reminded me of Jack Nicholson’s iconic role in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. Having shed an eye-opening 40 pounds for the character, this is the actor unlike you’ve ever seen him before: charming, funny and deeply moving in the role of a lifetime. It’s a performance that is worthy of awards and recognition, and after nearly 20 years of being dismissed as a ‘romantic-comedy’ actor, McConaughey finally deserves everyone’s attention.

Jared Leto is stunning in the role of a transgender that struggles to stand up for her rights in life. I remember raising my eyebrows when I first heard that this actor would be playing a woman, yet surprisingly his performance is the work of a genius. It is definitely not an easy job for any male actor to tackle the role of the opposite sex, but it appears as if Leto was always born to pull it off. Stealing every scene he appears in with a memorable persona, he is one of those rare actors that is able to make you forget that he’s acting.

The last, most overlooked standout is Jennifer Garner in the role of a doctor with a heart of gold. It’s rather challenging to deliver a memorable performance when your talents are overshadowed by two great actors, yet Garner brings a realism to the screen in one of her best performances ever.

Not many movies over the last decade have delivered a message as powerful as “Dallas Buyers Club”. It isn’t everyday that movies have something to say about life yet this film proves that if one maintains a positive attitude and never gives up hope, they always face a bright future. It’s so inspiring that it teaches you a lesson on how you could gain confidence in your own life.

Although I absolutely loved “Dallas Buyers Club”, I don’t think that it’s a film without a minor flaw. Despite being entertaining throughout, it is too long and easily could have been cut down.

Also, to be honest it’s not a film that is meant for everyone. If you’re planning on watching this movie, please keep in mind it’s grim subject matter. Anyone that is sensitive towards the topics of sex, drugs or addiction may find this film hard to watch. Its certainly not going to appeal to everyone’s tastes.

Fans of inspirational dramas will definitely fall in love with “Dallas Buyers Club”, and so will movie-goers that long for their hearts to be touched. It’s one of the only movies this year that made me laugh, cry and become so invested in the lives of the characters that I rooted for them. As far as this year’s Award Contenders are concerned, you’ll be committing a serious crime if you miss out on this one…

4.5/5 stars

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