Sunday, February 09, 2014

Best Picture Primer: Dallas Buyers Club


Dallas Buyers Club's greatest achievements come in front of the camera, rather than behind.  Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey both left the Golden Globes with awards for not only their acting, but for their personal transformations, shedding significant weight1 to play terminal AIDS patients.

Director Jean-Marc Vallée did an admirable job, and it was a feather in Hollywood North's cap to have a Canadian director's film nominated for Best Picture, it's not surprising that he's not nominated for his direction.  Seemingly unable to decide between a gritty handheld Steven Soderbergh approach and a more typical approach, his direction feels uneven and rushed in parts where it shouldn't be.

The film doesn't delve too deeply into the AIDS epidemic - I think it's been left to the audience to at least have a degree of knowledge of its origins - but it certainly deals with the stigma attached to an HIV/AIDS diagnosis in 1985, then only three years removed from being called GRID.  It also (perhaps too) bluntly illustrates the hopelessness associated with the FDA approval process and the struggle to get access to potentially life-extending drugs that "aren't approved".

McConaughey and Leto's characters form an intriguing partnership. McConaughey's Ron Woodroof curtails his destructive lifestyle and crawls out of denial and despair just as he meets Leto's Rayon, a hopeful AIDS patient in a drug trial, who, as the movie progresses, begins to spiral down, exacerbating her disease with regular cocaine use and inattentive treatments.  Their performances, and the unique double helix of their storylines, is perhaps Vallée's greatest achievement - he seems to know to let them create the characters, but deftly stitches them together.

Other Nominations

Best Actor - Matthew McConaughey
Best Supporting Actor - Jared Leto
Film Editing - Jean-Marc Vallée, Martin Pensa
Makeup and Hairstyling - Adruitha Lee, Robin Mathews
Original Screenplay - Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack

1 - As Tina Fey and Amy Poehler pointed out at the Golden Globes, they did what every actress essentially does to even get a role

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