Skip to main content

JAMES A GEORGE ON THE MCCONAISSANCE - REVIEW OF DALLAS BUYER'S CLUB

EYEWEAR'S FILM CRITIC JAMES A GEORGE ON A GREAT INDIE FILM

The Lincoln Lawyer and The Paperboy really depended on him, Killer Joe and Mud electrified because of him, and his cameo in The Wolf of Wall Street was apparently the only scene not cut down for the sake of running time. The Matthew McConaissance has reached a peak, and with McConaughey playing the lead in the upcoming Christopher Nolan epic Interstellar; it’s likely he’ll keep climbing. Perhaps his most fully fledged, head-rattling and enigmatic performance so far is as Rust Cohle in new television series True Detective – a landmark achievement in a somewhat stale medium (despite what the idiot-box machine might be trying to tell you). Detective aside, the flag at the top of McK2 is in the shape of Ron Woodroof in the biographical Dallas Buyer’s Club.

            Ron Woodroof, a rodeo bull rider by day, drug, drink and sex addict by night, is informed he is HIV+. After much resistance, declaring only “faggots” can catch it, it eventually starts to sink in that he has only thirty days to live – not that he’ll accept that. Woodroof negotiates around America’s medical system to help himself and other AIDs patients get the medication they need (and if he gets rich on the way, so be it). This stark film’s biggest achievement is the complete avoidance of sentimentality. The screening even erupted with laughter at Woodroof’s childlike cruelty and base examinations. Of course, friendships form between him and other AIDs patients, namely Jared Leto’s fictional Rayon, but it is schmaltz-free and all the better for it. It is truthful, invigorating, and without burden manages to carry strong messages.

            Leto is not an actor that one would associate awards buzz, but neither is it unfair to say that this performance has come out of nowhere, and apart from Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave, he’s earned the buzz. There’s a lot to be said for his portrayal of a transgender woman, perhaps good and bad about its authenticity, and in fact the film perhaps generally plays fast and loose with the facts, but Leto is utterly convincing; his pristine pop-rock star alter ego entirely forgotten. He serves as the perfect counterpoint to Woodroof, and their rowdy exchanges thankfully never enter the realms of scenery chewing; that’s something that is a lot trickier to choreograph than it might at first seem. To have such strong performances baring everything on their sleeves with very little subtext, to keep the camera quiet and unfussy, with no action or sexy sex scenes, and yet have packed cinemas of all shapes, sizes, colours, planets, root for the hero and enjoy the ride is quite a feat.

One might criticise it for it’s lack of narrative build up to an emotional payoff, but that would remove any trace of identity and honest portrayal of real events. Things didn’t end well in 1980s for AIDs patients, despite the plain facts presented to government, should the film pretend it did? That’s not to say the film is entirely depressing and gritty, far from it. Dallas Buyer’s Club is a careful character study based in both fact and fiction, about a man gaining benevolence, empathy, and even a shred of love, and it’s why I love American independent filmmaking.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

AMERICA PSYCHO

According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…

DANGER, MAN

Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…

OSCAR SMOSHCAR

The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…