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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Buddy Beaverhausen Catches Up with Oscars' Best Picture Nominees # 3: Dallas Buyers Club

The Academy Awards loves actors who gain or lose weight for their roles. It's as if that's a symbol of the serious investment and commitment one brings to any given part. Certainly, it gives Matthew McConaughey an edge on winning the Best Actor Award for which he's been nominated. In Dallas Buyers Club, he appears appropriately fragile and emaciated, having lost 50 pounds to portray a man with AIDS. And like, say, Bette Midler in The Rose, he's in just about every frame of this star vehicle. Of course, he is up against Christian Bale who gained a significant amount of weight for his role in American Hustle.

Dallas Buyer's Club won the Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor (Matthew) and Supporting Actor (Jared Leto). At the Oscars, they are also nominated in the same categories and the film is nominated as Best Picture of 2013. The film is currently back in theaters as a result.

During the set-up, I expected Dallas Buyers Club to be Dark Victory for the trailer trash set. But it turns into an earnestly inspirational and engrossing film based on a real-life incident.

Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallee ("Young Victoria") basically has a strong hand over this film, especially regarding his actors. The lighting is as expressionistic as the cinematography is mundane. The film is imbued with jaundiced yellow, warm red and moody blue filtering with purposeful intent.

Editing should have been somewhat tighter as this flick rambles on at 117 minutes, overstaying its welcome so that it might feel even longer. I recall taking a bathroom break at one point without missing a beat in the narrative when I returned.

As for Jared Leto's performance, I liked the emotive nuances he brought to tragic tranny Rayon's character. And Jennifer Garner is certainly solid enough if nothing to really write home about.

Set in the 1980s/'90s, this is distinctly McConaughey's movie, starring as a redneck electrician and part-time rodeo performer, homophobe and racist Ron Woodroof who, finding out he has AIDS and a t-cell count of 9, gradually becomes more aware and a humanitarian and ultimately a kind of revolutionary anti-hero. His nemesis in this film is the USA Food and Drug Administration. The film does make a bold political statement regarding the corruption that has become entrenched in that agency.

Dallas Buyer's Club, in the end, is, all in all, a staunch contender for Best Motion Picture of the Year. McConaughey's performance is powerful, brave and relentless and, come Oscar night, he stands an excellent chance of snagging the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role award.

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