The first scene of Dallas Buyers Club is disorienting, immediately confounding the viewer with obscured vision, indecipherable gasps, and lack of context. The next several scenes are similarly abrupt, provocative, and compelling. It sets the stage for what feels like a film.
Turns out your gut reaction is wrong, though. This movie, while starting with promise, winds out to be your typical sentimentalist junk about the AIDS crisis during the 1980s. I don’t mean to sound heartless or uncaring, but we’ve seen plenty of movies like this before.
Based on true events, Dallas Buyers Club is the story of an “odd couple” of a homophobic loser joining forces with a transgender woman to deal, and eventually set up a business, to distribute medication which alleviates the symptoms of AIDS. Each has their own selfish reasons for entering into this arrangement (elements which I think make the story compelling), but it predictably falls into the sappy selflessness you’d expect. This is truly the stuff Oscar dreams are made of.
I don’t mean to say this movie was terrible, but it certainly wasn’t good. If the events in the film are all true ones (which, for all I know, they may have been), they certainly weren’t set up well enough. For instance, Matthew McConaughey’s Ron Woodroof is somehow able to break through his first con job, as a cancer-stricken priest, without breaking a sweat… It’s suspending a lot of disbelief that, given the devastating circumstances of being HIV+, Woodroof can all of a sudden develop alternate personae faster than That’s So Raven.
Lazy touches like this make the film overall underwhelming for me. It’s not a particularly interesting movie, and I find it inconceivable how it has drawn such praise. Dallas Buyers Club gives you exactly what you expect, which in my opinion is pointless art.