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Dallas Buyers Club Review: Bad Timing

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Sometimes projects just don’t enter the market at the right time. “Buffalo Soldiers,” (2001), a rollicking anti-establishment military comedy, notoriously premiered on September 9, 2001 – not a great time to be depicting soldiers as a bunch of black marketeers and meth heads. Twentieth Century Fox started marketing a movie called “Neighborhood Watch” three days after Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watchman – they had to change the name to “The Watch” and it still died at the box office.

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Now comes “Dallas Buyers Club.” As the story of one lone man with AIDS fighting an evil medical establishment, it would have been a great movie to release in the late eighties or early nineties, during the ACT UP era. Audiences would have cheered to see a hero taking on the FDA’s sluggishness in the face of a crisis.

However, in the wake of HIV denialism, global warming denialism, and anti-vaccine hysteria, the big bad medical establishment, which is now fighting off all those things, is looking considerably less evil than it used to. And a homophobic Texan peddling miracle cures obtained from a defrocked hippie doctor in Mexico – is this really a hero for our times? To the extent that the movie is about One Man Against The System, the movie fails. Fortunately the movie plays better on its other level, the story of one man overcoming his homophobia in a last ditch search for redemption.

A barely recognizable Matthew McConaughey stars in this film, and a completely unrecognizable Jared Leto costars as his partner. Both actors lost insane amounts of weight for their roles, and look as rough as they ought to. They both nail the roles and their odd pairing never gets dull.

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Unfortunately Jennifer Garner is mis-cast as a sympathetic doctor. Other gorgeous actresses like Charlize Theron and Sandra Bullock have been able to ugly up when necessary, but even without makeup Garner is too Hollywood beautiful for this role.

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The supporting cast of rodeo groupies, roughnecks, and AIDS patients are all excellent, though Steve Zahn is mostly wasted in a bit part. The movie has a good Texas gritty atmosphere, but except for some Wang Chung on the jukebox, it doesn’t really feel like 1985.

Final verdict: see this movie at a cheapo matinee, or wait for it to come to cable. It’s worthwhile, but not at current movie prices.

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  • That’s right!

  • Deacon Blues, Fcuk Cancer!

    Mmmm…. Jennifer Garner.

  • CrankyBunny

    It is a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care.

    • OMG I am not Jonah Goldberg. From now on I’m only reading comments that THURB leaves. Oh I went there.

      • CrankyBunny

        This is the life you have chosen.

  • Thurb

    I’m hearing wonderful things about the lead performances and not much else. Amazing how something seems to have clicked for McConaughy. It seems like he suddenly went “I can only have a good time for so long, I actually want to be respected for my work.” And then stepped it up. That as it is a raw period in my life, lots of friends gone, so I’d probably not see it in a theater even if it had been meant for the full Imax treatment. But thanks for the head’s up.

  • DannyGuam maybeIdoalittle

    Dallas Buyers Club would be a good name for a band.