Gritty acting puts the grim in reality

Last updated 15:14 14/03/2014

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Review : Dallas Buyers Club (R16) 

Ever find yourself suffering from public health warning fatigue?

I do and I'm sure I'm not alone. For example, I struggle to remember how many eggs I can safely eat a week, whether there is really anything wrong with monosodium glutamate, and whether a little sun is a good or a bad thing.

I know I should be thinking about my prostate but I'm not entirely sure what I should be doing about it and when my back starts playing up I'm never completely clear whether I should be going to bed or going for a walk.

Then there are those arguments for and against booze.

If you believe some reports even a whiff of the stuff should be avoided while others persuasively argue that the odd glass of wine or beer can do you a power of good.

Like I said, there is a lot of noise out there and trying to the sort the real from the ridiculous can be harder than you think.

One public health warning that had no problems penetrating my skull and staying there, was one I saw opposite an Underground platform in London in 1987.

The billboard featured a beautiful, naked and very pregnant woman.

It was a low lit shot and taken of the model sitting side-on with her head in her hands. She was crying and her tears were streaming down over her tummy.

Next to the picture in massive bold type was the message: "Aids has found a way to kill two people at once." In 1987 Aids was the talk of just about every town in the Western World. Strangely, you don't hear much about it or HIV these days.

I suspect this tells us two things: the drugs used to treat it have improved and people in the western world have frighteningly short memories.

Dallas Buyers Club is good film for many reasons, including the fact it has put the spotlight back on the disease that has so far killed more than 36 million people.

Two more reasons are the inspired performances of leading man Matthew McConaughey and co-star Jared Leto.

McConaughey plays Texan cowboy and hell-raiser Ron Woodroof who in 1985 was diagnosed with Aids and given 30 days to live.

The film tells the mostly true story of how Ron headed to Mexico to buy large quantities of medication yet to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration then distributed them through a club, the membership of which cost $400 a month.

Woodroof infuriated the medical profession and the authorities but he gave hundreds of Aids victims the chance to try otherwise unavailable drugs. He also gave them hope.

Leto plays Rayon, a transgender woman and composite character who helps Ron get the club off the ground and get over his homophobia.

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Intelligently directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, Dallas Buyers Club is a gritty film full of drugs, and desperate and seedy people.

Its depictions of sex are arrestingly primal, grim and dangerous.

The film doesn't sugar-coat or sentimentalise Woodroof's story and doesn't for a moment try to turn him into a saint.

Like American Hustle, it's very much an actors' film. The story could fit on a folded A4 page; there isn't actually a lot to it but fans of great acting are unlikely to care.

Bottom line: Worth seeing just for McConaughey and Leto's Oscar-winning performances.

- The Marlborough Express


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