Dallas Buyers Club (2013) Film. Director: Jean-Marc Vallée



Dallas 1985. Electrician and sometimes rodeo bull rider Ron Woodroof lives hard, which includes heavy smoking, drinking, drug use (primarily cocaine) and casual sex. He is a stereotypical redneck: racist and homophobic. While in the hospital on a work related injury, the doctors discover and inform him that he is HIV+, and that he will most-likely die within thirty days. Ron is initially in angry denial that he would have a disease that only “faggots” have, but upon quick reflection comes to the realization that the diagnosis is probably true. He begins to read whatever research is available about the disease, which at this time seems to be most effectively treated by the drug AZT. AZT, however, is only in the clinical trials stage within the US. Incredulous that he, as a dying man, cannot pay for any drug which may save or at least prolong his life, he goes searching for it by whatever means possible. It eventually leads him to Mexico and a “Dr.” Vass, an American physician whose …(Imdb)





Saturday 7 September 2013 

    • A day in the life of the rodeo cowboy. A slug of bourbon, a dance with the bull, a post-buck shuffle with a prostitute under the stands. A life of narrow parameters. Pleasure taken fast, hard and simple.

      Dallas Buyers Club shows how terminal illness ripped up the routine of one such small thinker. Ron Woodroof was a homophobic hedonist who, in 1986, was given 30 days to live after being diagnosed HIV positive. His world flipped from gay-bashing in the bar with his blue collar buddies, to hours in hospital, camped next to fellow AIDs patients, most of whom were gay men dealing with a disease that had started to devastate their community.

      Woodroof’s response to his diagnosis was to reject his doctor’s prescription, head for the Mexican black market to collect his own cocktail of alternative therapies, then set up a subscription service to shop the treatment back to the same people he claimed to hate. He was a grizzly, complex character. Dallas Buyers Club is at its best when it keeps him that way.

      Matthew McConaughey lost 38 pounds to play Woodroof. He delivers a twitchy, hostile performance on par with anything he’s done since he escaped the rom com cul-de-sac. He’s matched by Jared Leto as Rayon, a transsexual drug addict who goes into business with Woodroof and carries the responsibility of broadening the shit-kicking cowboy’s world view. Rayon paints Woodroof’s motel room a garish red (“It’s Cranberry Mocha!”), sticks pictures of Marc Bolan up amongst the cutouts from girlie mags. The odd couple came together because there was money to be made, but Rayon reasons it won’t hurt to dripfeed Woodroof some tolerance as well. Less juicy is Jennifer Garner’s role as the more sympathetic of Woodroof’s doctors. “You’re always in a white coat,” he says. “Are you afraid of colour?”. The screenplay answered in the affirmative a long time ago.

      America’s AIDS crisis has been under a small scale cinematic re-evaluation of late. Last year’s Oscar-nominated documentary How to Survive a Plague condemned government inaction. Dallas Buyers Club takes on big pharma, waging war on the bureaucrats who were happy to charge $10,000 a year for drugs that were toxic, while the FDA stood in the way of treatments that were proven to work, but less marketable. It’s in this fight that the film loses part of its thrust. The suits and their profit margins are no match for McConaughey as Woodroof. The wildcard’s more fun to watch.

      Dallas Buyers Club takes its own alternative route compared to the prescribed biopic conventions. There’s a conversion for Woodroof, but it’s not dramatic or revelatory. He didn’t have enough time left to become a true reformer. He accepts and even loves Rayon, but we don’t get a grand-scale happy-clappy realisation that all of us are equal. Nor should we. This is not about a community taking care of its own. This is about Ron Woodroof looking out for himself, permitting difference to that end, then growing gradually out of routine homophobia. He was a grizzled bastard who spun a profit that paved a way for change. A survivor who escaped himself through desperation and greed. Dallas Buyers Club stays true to that remarkable, redoubtable spirit.

    • To give credit where it’s arguably due, “Dallas Buyers Club,” directed byJean-Marc Vallée from a screenplay by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, takes a different storytelling tack than might be expected of an aspiring-to-inspire based-on-a-true-story drama. Beginning in the mid-1980s, a period cited by journalists and historians as the height of the AIDS crisis in the United States, “Club” is about Ron Woodroof, a real-life figure. Woodroof was a hard-partying, ever-on-the-make quasi-cowboy who, on finding himself HIV-infected and with a very-soon-to-come death sentence hanging over him, began aggressively exploring alternative meds. He unwittingly became an advocate and activist, even as he kept himself alive for years longer than any medical experts had told him he could.Woodroof was also, this story tells us, a bigoted redneck who bristled with more than just fear of mortality when he got his diagnosis. “Dallas Buyers Club” is not just about Woodroof going up against the FDA and Big Pharma and the other institutions and individuals who kept potentially life-saving drugs from sick people who needed them; it is of course also about Woodroof’s Growth As A Human Being, and how this growth allows him to work side by side with a flamboyant transsexual, a person he not only wouldn’t have given the time of day to in his prior mode of life, but possibly would have given a beatdown to.
    • But while it highlights performances by both Matthew McConaughey (as Woodroof) and Jared Leto (as the wily, poignant transsexual Rayon) that are models of both emotional and physical commitment (both actors shed alarming amounts of weight to portray the ravages the disease wreaks on their characters), “Dallas Buyers Club” largely goes out of its way to eschew button-pushing and tear-jerking. Shot mostly in a direct, near-documentary style, but edited with a keen feel for the subjectivity of its main characters, “Dallas Buyers Club” takes a more elliptical, near-poetic approach to the lives it portrays than the viewer might expect from this kind of movie.
    • As I mentioned at the start of the review, the approach is admirable in theory. In practice, though, it’s sometimes mildly frustrating. The struggles of people suffering from AIDS in America were epic, and involved a Physician’s Desk Reference worth of meds, and a near-army of regulations and regulatory agencies; that’s a lot of data for one two-hour drama, andMcConaughey‘s character has to act as both an audience surrogate and a hero, but he’s also a man struggling with potent demons. Vallée’s energetic direction keeps the narrative moving, and there’s a real rush when Woodroof’s hustling pays off with the creation of the movie’s title entity, a sort of medical co-op that gets non-approved meds into the hands of the sick people the health care system can’t or won’t help.

      The moment-to-moment approach gets choppy sometimes, as when Woodroof is suddenly portrayed in a slick international-drug-smuggler mode; one gets the impression of being in a different movie. Vallée also misjudges, I think, the scenes in which to lay on the portent, as the scene in which Woodroof muddles through his past to figure out how he got infected, and flashes back to a rather overly boogity-boogity scene in which Woodroof has aggressively unprotected sex with two women, one of whom is a junkie. On the other end of a particular spectrum, the movie’s potential nod to sentiment, in the form of a potential romance between Woodroof and one of the few helpful/compassionate physicians he encounters (Jennifer Garner, who does good, understated work), seems a little half-hearted.

      I understand these sound like quibbles, but I’m trying to come to terms with why “Dallas Buyers Club” is a somewhat more dry experience than I suspect it wants to be. The movie certainly does crackle courtesy of McConaughey. Even as his character is physically wasting away, the actor is unfailing in his portrayal of Woodroof’s never-say-die indomitability, and is also unimpeachable in conveying the dangerous sleazoid charm that’s a carryover from Woodroof’s former footloose existence.

      While Jared Leto’s Rayon is often used as Woodroof’s foil, Leto’s attentive, detail-oriented portrayal of the fragile but supremely street-smart Buyers Club partner gives the character a distinct autonomy. The cast is packed with great actors (Steve ZahnDallas RobertsGriffin Dunne and Denis O’Hare among then) buckling down, and that’s key to the movie’s pleasures. If “Dallas Buyers Club” falls somewhat short in the categories of historical chronicle, emotional wallop, and information delivery, its conscientious attempts to portray a group of people in trouble in a troubled time delivers mini-epiphanies in a series of small doses. And that isn’t nothing.

    • http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/dallas-buyers-club-2013



 October 31, 2013

Skinny as a whippet and fierce as a snapping turtle, Matthew McConaughey brings a jolt of unpredictable energy to “Dallas Buyers Club,”  an affecting if conventional real-life story of medical activism. The film, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée  from a script by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, tells the story of Ron Woodroof, a Texas electrician and rodeo rider who, after receiving a diagnosis of H.I.V. in 1985, took his treatment into his own hands and helped others with the disease obtain medication not legally available in the United States at the time.

When we first meet Ron, he is enjoying the company of two women and preparing to mount an enraged bull. Flamboyantly heterosexual and crudely homophobic, he runs on cigarettes, liquor and arrogance, with an occasional dose of speed or coke to boost his confidence. He is a proud good old boy, but not an especially nice person. In time, of course, his rougher edges will be smoothed away by suffering and compassion, though he will never entirely lose his wild, profane lust for life. He is redeemed, but not fully sanctified.

Along the way, Ron tangles with a medical establishment partly blinded by its self-interest. Never an easy patient — he has a habit of unhooking IV drips and bolting from hospital beds — he becomes a thorn in the side of doctors at the hospital where his condition is first diagnosed. He flouts the rules of an experimental drug trial, buys stolen AZT from an orderly, and does a lot of angry shouting at Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner ) and her boss (Denis O’Hare).

Eventually, Dr. Saks will become an ally, as she and Ron — he instinctively, she by more careful scientific means — conclude that high doses of AZT are likely to do more harm than good in fighting H.I.V. Ron, meanwhile, has found his way to Mexico, where a renegade American doctor (Griffin Dunne) persuades him that a combination of drugs and dietary supplements can help the immune system and stabilize the T-cells. Soon he is smuggling pills across the border, at one point disguised as a cancer-stricken priest. Back home, he circumvents the rules against selling unapproved medicines by starting the subscription service that gives the movie its name. Patrons pay a monthly fee and receive regular orders of Ron’s contraband.

The lines that stretch outside the door of the club’s headquarters — a few rooms in a shabby motel — suggest the extent of the AIDS epidemic, and other details in the film remind viewers of the often poisonous social climate of the times. Ron’s friends shun him, showering him with the same slurs he had been in the habit of using. The government (embodied by a doughy Food and Drug Administration bureaucrat) is more concerned with procedure than compassion. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies chase glory and profits at the expense of patients.

What is largely missing, though, is the sense that Ron’s efforts are part of a larger movement. The problem is not that “Dallas Buyers Club” focuses on a straight hero acting mainly on behalf of gay men. Ron’s bravery and determination are entirely credible, thanks to Mr. McConaughey’s disciplined, high-spirited performance and the filmmakers’ interest in the complexity of the character. But his actions unfold in something of a vacuum. There is little sense of the militancy and passion chronicled, for example, in David France’s documentary, “How to Survive a Plague,” which brilliantly illuminated how the response to AIDS — as a political as well as a medical emergency — helped to transform gay life in America.

Instead, “Dallas Buyers Club” presents the fable of a homophobe’s awakening, with supporting roles given to Ms. Garner’s kind doctor and to Rayon (Jared Leto), a troubled transgender person who becomes Ron’s business partner. Mr. Leto is always a subtle and intriguing actor, but Rayon essentially revives the ancient stereotype of the tragic, self-destructive queen, suffering operatically and depending, at last, on the kindness of strangers.

Rayon is meant, I suspect, to inject both a dash of camp and a surge of pathos into the movie, but the character helps instead to confine it to the realm of simple and sentimental melodrama. There is warmth and intelligence here, and undeniable sincerity, but also a determination, in the face of much painful and fascinating history, to play it safe.


Café de Flore (2011) Film. Director : Jean-Marc Vallée

A love story between a man and woman. And between a mother and her son. A mystical and fantastical odyssey on love. (Imdb)

A love story about people separated by time and place but connected in profound and mysterious ways. The film chronicles the parallel fates of Jacqueline, a young mother with a disabled son in 1960s Paris, and Antoine, a recently-divorced, successful DJ in present day Montreal. What binds the two stories together is love – euphoric, obsessive, tragic, youthful, timeless love. «C.R.A.Z.Y. had set a challenge that Café de Flore has managed to meet, with the difference that the latter film explores in greater depth the realm of fantasy, confronting new themes […] C.R.A.Z.Y. literally gave me the wings to fly up high, to push me to explore unknown territories. Café de Flore is the fruit of this flight I took». (Jean-Marc Vallée) –Venice Days (Mubi)