Remember when I said I was gonna give you a “happy movie” to review next? Forget that. You need to watch The Dallas Buyer’s Club next. What an amazing performance by an almost unrecognizable Matthew McConaughey! Jared Leto also turns in some serious work in this crazy “David vs Goliath” story. This one’s definitely a strong contender come Oscar night. Wow.
There is some unpleasant scenes for sure but I was surprised to find out it wasn’t really an “AIDS movie” (like Philadelphia). It’s really about the “little” guy taking on the big bad FDA. There were actually quite a few very funny scenes. Pleasantly surprised with this one.
Most movies are appraised based on the elements of film – writing, directing, acting, set design, etc. If one of the key elements is missing, the lack is reflected in reviews. Even movies that don’t have anything specifically wrong in those elements end up getting panned by critics if there isn’t something that stands out. It isn’t enough to be not bad; most films need to actually be good.
But for some reason certain films get a pass based on their topic. They don’t need to be stand-out good as long as there’s nothing stand-out bad. This is especially true with films involving the poor treatment of an already marginalized group. Unfairness is somehow universally acknowledged as cause for a good review; sympathy is applauded as long as nothing is undeniably wrong.
This is The Dallas Buyer’s Club. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t good either. Any interest in it relies entirely on the theme. I’ll admit that the story concept was decent and the characters were fairly imaginative. McConaughey obviously put a lot of effort into his role and so did Leto – in fact I think Leto did the better job. But as a whole the film is unremarkable. I didn’t want to stop watching it, but it didn’t hook me either.
The only engaging aspect of the film is the interaction between the patients, the doctors, the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies. I found myself wondering just how closely the excuses and arguments reflect reality. But of course that’s not really the point of the film so that interest is left quite unfulfilled.
Was the public treatment of AIDS victims in the 80s (and ever since) terrible? Yes. Do pharmaceutical companies intentionally mislead everyone to inflate profits? Probably. Is the FDA completely bought-off. It wouldn’t surprise me. But The Dallas Buyer’s Club isn’t a documentary, it’s entertainment. And entertainment should be entertaining.
One thing I agree with Jesse on – this is exactly the kind of film that does well on Oscar night.