Month: February 2014

Dallas Buyers Club (2014)

It could be said, that Matthew McConaughey is doing the best work in the business at this moment. The man himself has currently featured in many, many films recently and majority have been excellent or so the grapevine says. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to see some of the works, however, I had the pleasure of watching Dallas Buyers Club.

Dallas Buyers Club is the true story about Ron Woodroof (McConaughey), a man who learned he was HIV Positive which led him to contract the AIDS virus. He ultimately told he has thirty days to live, which he first refutes, but then begs for the hospitals help. Due to the unwillingness of the hospital to help him, he begin to smuggle drugs from various places to get himself treated, but also helping out people in the community creating the (you guessed it) Dallas Buyers Club.

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Naturally there is more to this story, much, much more. Including the development of Woodroof beginning to become an integral part of the AIDS community, which is completely different from the character the film opens with, him indulging himself in sex with two other females whilst watching some ongoing rodeo metres away from him. He also drinks and does drug. I mean, loveable character, right?

It’s fair to say there is nothing likeable about this character we meet. He is a homophobic, cheap, no-good hustler. Although I must admit his attitude of “ain’t nothin’ out there that can kill fuckin’ Ron Woodroof in 30 days” is incredible. After waking up in the hospital again, Ron meets Rayon (Jared Leto – his first appearance in a film for five years) who plays a transvestite, which is remarkable, because honestly, I could not recognise Jared Leto at first. I’ve always admired Jared Leto’s work and this is no different, if not better which explains why the man is up for an academy award.

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If you didn’t know, during the 1980s the AIDS virus was very new and very unknown virus during this era, so for Jean Marc-Vallèe to capture what it must have been like for a AIDS victim to go through during this time was, I feel, key to this film. Even Ron falls victim to this as his friends all abandon him and go to extents to not even touch him as they become scared they’ll contract it.

Rayon and Ron eventually strike up a partnership and begin the Dallas Buyers Club, helping AIDS victims and as the film progresses, the character of Ron changes. This partnership with Rayon eventually turns into a friendship that Ron treasures which is evident in the latter stages of the film. But also, the perception of Ron changes, from this cheap hustler, to this man who has found a new life near the end of his own. Which is magnified by one of my favourite scenes from the film, the butterflies in the room.

This film being the biopic it is, is very dialogue-heavy considering the subject matter. However, the performances from McConaughey and Leto are remarkable and it works for the lengthy dialogue that happens during film. Even more remarkable, due to being character with AIDS, Leto and McConaughey both lost a lot of weight to play their roles, which is alway interesting in the extents actors and actresses go through to fit their roles, just like Christian Bale’s The Machinist and Emile Hirsch’s Chris McCandless.

This film is excellent in all honesty, because of the excellent performances from the leads, especially McConaughey, the capturing of a 1985 Dallas landscape including the homophobic nature of people around Ron Woodroof and AIDS sufferers. The sole driving force of this film is the performances from Leto and McConaughey as they keep the film flowing but also intriguing. There are some excellent shots, I thought, but with the nature of the film, it was always going to be the performances that shine throughout.

4/5

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12 Years A Slave (2013)

If you haven’t heard of this film, have you been living under a rock? I recently saw this film and can’t get it out of my head. Steve McQueen can currently do no wrong in the filmmaking world with this, masterpiece. This Steve McQueen’s third feature film, and of course, it stars Michael Fassbender.

12 Years A Slave tackles the difficult subject matter of slavery, but is also based on the extraordinary story of Solomon Northup, a man kidnapped and sold into slavery. This is the very basic, bare bones of this tale. Solomon Northup, (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is from Saratoga in the state of New York and he is drugged and kidnapped and subsequently sold into slavery in Louisiana. This begins the hardships Solomon has to suffer for the 12 years that he was a slave.

Steve McQueen made the reality of slavery during these times present, sure the audience knew about the hardships, but McQueen had it when Solomon first arrived to be collected by Theophilus (Paul Giamatti) he sees other slaves locked in chains, scars on their faces and the most shocking seeing a slave with a missing hand. Of course, include this with the four-minute whipping scene, it’s clear Steve McQueen is not shy to use the more graphic scenes for emphasis.

With the subject nature, a powerful performance would always be on the cards, and with the cast there is no difference. With Steve McQueen’s previous works of Hunger and Shame, the performances from Fassbender have been key to the film, 12 Years A Slave is no different, but this includes the performance of Chiwetel Ejiofor and and feature film debutant Lupita Nyong’o, who played Patsey. Admittedly, the Michael Fassbender performance leaves the vivid image in my head.

“I do not want to survive, I want to live”

Not only are the performances of everyone that is top billed captivating and powerful, the essence of the people during this time is captivating. The idly standing by of everyone, whilst Solomon hangs from a noose, but then to counteract that Solomon joining in with the singing around the grave. Which is also a captivating scene in itself.

The score blended in nicely to what was happening, although sometimes it felt it was there to highlight the emotions that you should feel, rather than thinking for yourself, but overall, it worked. And of course, the shooting was nothing spectacular, but all flowed nicely. Some long, drawn out shots worked really well, like the one at the end, with him staring at you in the cinema. (I heard someone say “That kind of made you feel guilty, didn’t it?” to someone)

Solomon Northup

I hadn’t worked on this post for around 5 days, but this was also an advantage, because it gave me time to think what I remember about this film. And the thing was, the things I remember the most was the lifestyle that slaves had to live. Steve McQueen had an expert on slavery present whilst filming, so this depiction of slavery is closest thing we shall see on the screen I would imagine. With the like of Django using slavery as a subject matter, I felt 12 Years A Slave the much better project of the two when dealing with slavery.

Taking that into account, and with the captivating performances of Lupita and Chiwetel and of course Michael Fassbender, this film is excellent. Obviously, if you dislike images that may upset your stomach, you may want to shy away form this film as McQueen has in turn not shied away from showing the true plight of the slaves. This also felt different to his other works of Shame and Hunger, but it works, it shows an expansion of directing, instead of sticking to the niche that has been seen in the past.

5/5

If you think I’ve left anything out that needed mentioning let me know! Or if you’ve seen this and think differently!