film review: dallas buyers club

see jared leto like you’ve never seen him before

by steff yotka

Dallas Buyers Club,

the new film released today from directorJean-Marc Vallee starring Matthew McConaughey as a son of Texas stricken with AIDS in the '80s, has all the trademarks of a flashy award winning drama: radical physical transformations from its stars McCounaghey and Jared Leto, who whittled themselves to skeletal weights to play men living with AIDS, unlikely friendships, heists, cops, court rooms, road trips, romance, death, nudity, outsiders, poverty, drugs... The list could go on and on and on. But this film is so much more than the sum of its parts. It's not sappy, it's not pleasant, it's serious but not preachy, it's funny, it's painstakingly sad, it's moving... It's probably the best film I've seen in a long time. 

What makes

Dallas Buyers Club

so compelling is its aversion to turning a real life story into a fable. There's no happy ending or self-realization for Ron Woodruff, the protagonist played by McConaughey--this is the story of a guy trying to make it work. And most of the time it doesn't. After being diagnosed with AIDS and treated with AZT, which leaves him more debilitated than ever, he begins smuggling other treatments into the United States for his personal use and to distribute to the members of a buyers club he established. He teams up with Rayon, a transsexual played by Leto, to run the club, while befriending a doctor at Dallas Mercy Hospital, played by Jennifer Garner. There are moments of comedy, like Woodruff trying to convince the border patrol he's a priest, of friendship, like the first time Woodruff and Rayon hug, and of rage, something Woodruff was very good at. McConaughey and Leto are mind-blowingly good in their roles--I had to keep reminding myself that that was Jared Leto on screen because he is 100-precent unrecognizable from the guy I know as the singer and songwriter for

30 Seconds to Mars

. Honestly, I don't really know how to do justice to the range of emotions you'll feel while watching the film, all I can say is that after leaving the theater I felt like I had just left an experience, not a movie. 

Dallas Buyers Club is in theaters today.