I was nowhere near being a slash fangirl when this came out on Madtv(I was like, 13?), but HOLY SHIT THESE TWO. Probably got me into slash and shipping before I knew what they were. Such a shame when they eventually left. They were my fav duo too… ; 3;
there are a lot of things wrong with dallas buyers club. i’ll start with the assumption that the acting was good, which seems to be the singular praise-worthy aspect of the film. i think both mcconaughey and leto did what the screenplay asked of them–which was, basically, to pull the heartstrings unmercifully and go for broke in all the most obvious, cloying ways possible. hey, they deliver. this film is about as subtle as a falling anvil.
mcconaughey’s Character Arc from pussyhound homophobe to crusading compassionate AIDS advocate is delivered without even the most basic concern for reality, depth or tact. like i said on twitter, dallas buyers club probably sets the record for the most naked women in a movie about the AIDS crisis; is it really necessary for the movie to hit us over the head again and again what a totally heterosexual macho cowboy this guy is? did ron woodruff really have zero complexities to his personality? i guess he’s just a hard-drinking, hard-gambling man’s man who turned a 30 day AIDS death sentence into a successful capitalist enterprise. ‘murica!
the screenplay, again, is totally choppy and uneven, vacillating between a specific character piece to a weirdly political diatribe against the pharmaceutical industry.
and then you have probably the most problematic aspect of the film, which is that even though it’s 'based on true events,’ most of those 'true events’ are not accurately depicted in the movie.
there seems to be enough doubt as to whether ron was gay, bi or straight to warrant a serious re-evaluation of why in the film he’s written as sooo very heterosexual. even if, as the slate article suggests, he presented different personalities to different people, why not write a screenplay that investigates these ambiguities? because in hollywood, you have to make something as simplistic, uncomplicated, heteronormative and marketable as possible.
that’s the real sin of dallas buyers club. there’s nothing inherently wrong in presenting a story about the AIDS crisis via a straight, white guy who has AIDS (even though that’s hardly representative of the crisis in america circa 1985). but is that wrong? no. that’s a valid reality. it happened. however, when you CHANGE the reality you’re purporting to represent to make something more 'palatable’ for the marketplace (an A-list star, a monied awards campaign, possible oscars…), you’re getting into greyer and greyer moral territory.
for example, rayon didn’t exist. the screenwriters claim he’s a composite character based on members of the gay community who were members of ron’s club. okay, sure, nothing inherently wrong with composite characters. you know what is super lazy, though? the fatally doomed queer character who’s sacrificed so that the straight, white protagonist can find his (renewed) sense of purpose and complete his mission.
that’s one of the oldest tropes in the book when it comes to representing queer characters in media. it’s old and it’s boring and it’s offensive. does rayon really get any characterization other than: trans, drug addict, estranged from her family? victim, victim, victim. are we ever really rooting for rayon the way we do for ron, or are we just meant to pity her till she croaks? ron is strong (straight, white, independent, resourceful, masculine); he lives. rayon is weak (trans, addicted, dependent, feminine); she dies. again, as a representative composite of the queer victims of AIDS, what is the film saying about those people vs. the kind of singular heroes ron is meant to represent?
personally, i think mcconaughey has done better work in the past few years, especially in killer joe, bernie & currently on true detective. those are subtle, nuanced roles. his part in dallas buyers club is broad and predictable. it’s a lot of tortured ugly-crying and pained redemption–in short, it’s the perfect oscar bait. probably why he has a good chance of winning best actor.
as for leto, i was very surprised, given the near-universal acclaim for his performance, that i wasn’t more impressed by it. this is a minor, minor role with barely any impact on the storyline at all. you could take rayon out of the movie entirely and ron’s journey would be exactly the same. again, leto’s role is only to spur woodruff on and re-invigorate his commitment to getting the AIDS drugs for himself and other patients; and of course for him to become the Kinder, Gentler Ron who makes his homophobic friends shake rayon’s hand. fuck, somebody get GLAAD on the phone, we got a real hero here! leto played the typical trans woman: flighty, flirty, damaged, sassy, etc. i don’t see anything unique or interesting about his portrayal.
in sum, dallas buyers club is a movie that was in production hell for 20 years. nobody wanted to make it. there were ten versions of the script (some, i’d be willing to wager, were more truthful, more complex, more daring and interesting). those didn’t get made. this version got made. this version is not interested in the subtle realities of character or about how people can be more than one thing at once. it’s about basic stereotypes that are understandable to even the most ignorant audience. it’s a pandering 'feel good’ movie. i hated it.