Review: Dallas Buyers Club (Vallée, 2013)

Photo credit: Annie Marie Fox, Focus Features

Photo credit: Annie Marie Fox, Focus Features

I watched this movie reluctantly. It seemed like it would be another film that poked at some interesting little tidbit of history while letting a maturing actor showcase his talent. But it’s always the same kind of talent. It usually involves losing a lot of weight or gaining a lot of weight and acting a little crazy or eccentric–all of that mixed in with some George Clooney-esque frippery.

But, to my surprise, I actually liked this movie (for the most part), when they were able to stay away from the usual Hollywood formulas (sadly, they weren’t always able to). The “hero” Ron Woodruff, a homophobic, rodeo-loving, self-destructive electrician who contracts AIDS, is played by a Matthew McConaughey, who I admit has grown quite a bit since his days opposite the likes of Kate Hudson and Sarah Jessica Parker (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Failure to Launch, respectively). Anyway, it is good acting, and a good story, too.

My main problem with this movie is my problem with every movie that’s “based off a true story.” What part’s true and what part’s made up? I can’t trust anything in the movie, any emotional resonance, because that’s the stuff that Hollywood loves to add to make real life seem more interesting than it is. The problem is that real life can be pretty damned interesting, and that’s what’s amazing about documentaries (see my review on The Overnighters). So even if Woodruff’s transformation did occur, or if there was romantic tension with his doctor, played by Jennifer Garner, I don’t believe in it. It smells like kitsch. But it’s also what carries the movie forward. So am I just left liking kitsch? I don’t know. I’m confused. Stop making movies based off true stories, Hollywood!

Well, anyway, diatribe aside, I did like it more than I thought I would. And at least it wasn’t a biopic. Those are the worst movies based off true stories. Maybe one day I’ll review one and tell you why.

Note: I couldn’t tell if I liked Jared Leto‘s performance as a transvestite or if it felt too much like a stereotype.

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