Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is a skanky electrician rolling round Texas rodeos in the mid-eighties. He contracts AIDS, is given a month to live and sets about obtaining alternative treatments for himself and others with the help of the transgendered Rayon (Jared Leto), who gives him entrée to the queer community he despises. His entrepreneurial efforts set him against the medical establishment and more importantly the American Food and Drug Administration, who prosecute and sanction him at every turn. A simple, cogent premise that could travel in a dozen riveting directions, right?
Overworked stylistic flourishes do have a value in that they refer, perversely and rather ruthlessly, to both narrative deficits and dodgy performances. Dallas Buyers Club features both. While Woodroof's persistence and native resourcefulness are explored, the story is undercooked and overlong; in a word, flabby. Sometimes boring, and without even using that grind to put us into his skin or really serving the matter to hand. There is at least some laudable ambiguity around the morality of Woodroof's modus, but I felt that was something dumped in front of me and left to languish, bereft of the examination it possibly deserved.
At the heart of the film's problems is the division of attention. Too much was/is lavished upon the two leads, who can't really reward or sustain that scrutiny while everyone else is reduced to walk-on cardboard, including token chick Dr Saks (Jennifer Garner). She bangs a wall with a hammer in frustration (I shit you not), but then I've yet to see Garner even come close to transcending the mediocre material that seems to be her lot.
It's not all his fault; as a character, Rayon is superficially recognisable, but also a sloppy pastiche of workhorse clichés and lazy framing, a microcosm of this thing in the round and here's where I go into mini-rant mode. No one would argue that clichés are without value or even authenticity; they are one of the founding structures of any subcultural expression after all. But in the game of militant personal identity, attendant clichés are also knowingly subverted, kicked around and punted into the stands rather than regarded as the kind of gospel suggested by these hamfisted depictions. So many extrinsic observers of otherness miss this glaring subtext. Let loose without an ounce of subtlety or irony between them, McConaughey and Leto look like the mugging goons they are. Two fucking Oscars, my arse.