Valdosta Daily Times

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December 7, 2013

Movie reivews: "Dallas Buyers Club," “Philomena” and “The Book Thief”

-- — “Dallas Buyers Club” (Biographical Drama: 1 hour, 57 minutes)

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn and Jared Leto

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée

Rated: R (Sexuality, profanity, thematic elements, violence, nudity and drug usage)

Movie Review: The nature of this screenplay is gritty realism served with a large side of humanitarianism. The cast is superb and the overtone set is one that captivates and energizes. As a drama, this is one of the best of 2013.

In 1995 Dallas, Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) is an electrician and rodeo bull rider. His life is habitually partying; cigarettes, sex with multiple women, gambling, alcohol and drug usage have damaged his body. Now, he learns he has HIV. This diagnosis changes Woodroof, who is a racist and homophobic man. While in the hospital, doctors tell him he has about 30 days of life left. When told drugs for the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) are not available in the United States, Woodroof goes on a mission to find the necessary drugs to keep him alive. Along the way, he is shunned by longtime friends and coworkers, meets shady doctors and pharmaceutical representatives, takes on overbearing government officials of the Food and Drug Administration, befriends Rayon (Leto), a gay transvestite, and falls for a beautiful, intelligent Dr. Eve Saks (Garner).

This script is a biographical slice of life of real-life AIDS victim Ron Woodroof. Before Woodroof died, he had lost a considerable amount of weight. Matthew McConaughey lost weight to make his body nearly skin and bones to play Woodroof.

McConaughey plays Woodroof with a keen talent. This is McConaughey’s best role. He wrapped himself in this character to become a man faced with quickly approaching mortality. Although Woodroof is far from being a saint, McConaughey makes the man tangible. Care for his cause is contagious, even if one does not care for Woodroof’s careless lifestyle. McConaughey is definitely worthy of an Oscar nomination.

Leto is also striking as an actor. He plays a transvestite. He is barely recognizable under wig and makeup initially, but he gives a strong performance that should also net him an Academy Award nomination. At moments, he rivals McConaughey. The two men’s scenes together are some of the film’s best.

Garner is dazzling, too. She plays a female medical doctor in an era when men still ostracized female doctors. Garner holds her own with McConaughey and Leto.

If they all receive praise at awards ceremonies, these three cast members would deserve it. They make this film compelling.

Even more, the film uses sounds and visual angles that propel Woodroof as a persona. Sharp high-pitched sounds and cameras peeking through fence posts or other objects give audiences a chance to see life as Woodroof is viewing it as a man with a terrible ailment. These nuances work well to facilitate the story.

The story works well. It is believable. It is moving. More important, it is worth seeing because of many good attributes.

Hats off to Canadian director Vallée (“The Young Victoria,” 2009) for this resolute view of one man’s life, the cast for solid acting, writers Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack and the rest of the crew for this solid piece of work. This is one of the best original screenplays of 2013.      

Grade: A (Buy into this club now.)

 

“Philomena” (Drama: 1 hour, 38 minutes)

Starring: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark

Director: Stephen Frears

Rated: PG-13 (Profanity, thematic elements and sexual references)

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