Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

December 26, 2013

Movie Review: Dallas Buyers Club

Steve Woodhouse

Knoxville — I can't really recommend “Dallas Buyers Club,” the tale of one man's struggles in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, because it's a little too formulaic. However, that's not to say that the film is not without its strong points. 

The film stars Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodruff, a cowboy electrician living it up with drugs, sex and gambling in 1985 Dallas, Texas. Woodruff is diagnosed with the disease and tries to extend his life as long as he can, even if that means thumbing his nose and suing the Food and Drug Administration. 

Woodruff makes the transformation from typical, self-absorbed lowlife into a redemptive figure, fighting for fellow AIDS patients. He flies all around the world to bring treatment medications to those people who would not have access to them and would instead have to settle for the FDA's approved drug, which is also proven to be toxic. 

McConaughey's physical appearance is different in this film, hiding a thin-as-a-rail frame behind shaggy, straight hair and a thick mustache, but that voice, swagger and manner of speaking still comes through. He delivers a strong performance, but I don't know if it's the best of his career as some are saying. To me, a lot of the accolades an actor receives, when taking chances in movies like this, are due to subject matter meant to advance a cause. 

Though not many individual heroes of the early days of the war against AIDS have been celebrated on film, the story of the early days, how it affected the homosexual community and the shame associated with it has been told repeatedly. The problem is that director Jeff Nichols follows the script of a crusader fighting an injustice against an entire nation too closely. It was too familiar, too much like a carbon copy of dozens of such heroes whose stories have already been told on the big screen. One could say he took risks with some of the edgy, uncomfortable scenes in the movie, but they weren't the right ones. 

Jennifer Garner co-stars as a doctor who assists Woodruff, but she is given nothing to work with. She was a cutout of someone risking her career that could easily have been placed on a flannel board next to McConaughey and the rest of the characters. 

I'd skip this one or catch it on cable. I didn't find anything too spectacular about it.