'Dallas Buyers Club' Review: The AIDS Crisis Gone Country

Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto play victims of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

 Matthew McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof in a scene from "Dallas Buyers Club."
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McConaughey throws around his fast-talking, spit-balling Texas charm, as he is known to do. But he enriches it with nuanced emotional undertones, which makes it feel more like acting and less like what it usually is: an act. (And that's not to mention the 50 pounds he lost for the role.)

The most surprising performance, however, is Leto's, who disappears in the role and not just because of the makeup, wig, and tattered fishnets he wears. He brings a full range of dimensions – cunning, mischief, warmth and despair – to what have could have been a pandering stereotype.

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Ron may be a stand-in for outdated terms of Americana identity, sexuality and masculinity – the film begins with a shot of an American flag, a bull rider, and Ron humping two women from a rodeo cage – making "Dallas Buyers Club" a parable of straight America coming to terms with a largely gay genocide. In this sense, it's still a problematic perspective, preventing it from being the Next Great American AIDS Movie it aspires to be.

But it is also a tale about unlikely partnership forged by desperate conditions – ones that move people to do unexpected things – and in that universality, "Dallas Buyers Club" succeeds. A definitive AIDS film "Dallas Buyers Club" is not, but it is certainly a worthwhile film about transformation and friendship.

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