Jean-Marc Vallee’s Dallas Buyer’s Club is a relentlessly traditional film. Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack’s screenplay is one of the oldest stories in the book, and they subscribe to the most limited, well-worn version of it. A hard-living, hard-smoking, hard-drinking Texan man, Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey) is a relentless Type-A Alpha Male of the classical American persuasion who discovers in 1985 that he is HIV positive. Surrounded by an external culture of unmitigated masculinity and an internal predilection for homophobia, he struggles mightily to come to terms with the diagnosis, weighed on most heavily by his belief that only homosexual men can have HIV (the de facto opinion among the general population in 1985). Continue reading
Tag Archives: Matthew McConaughey
First things first, Christopher Nolan is not a particularly good writer. Generally working with brother Jonathan Nolan in their most archly self-important holier-than-thou register, their scripts reek of arbitrary complication and self-important puzzle-box trickery designed to bowl you over with highfalutin airs. He doesn’t have an acerbic bone in his body, and his films mask their non-personal nature by confusing better story with more story. Interstellar may be his messiest screenplay yet, shifting course every half-hour, developing certain ideas only to drop them almost completely because it saw something shiny in the distance. And then it has the gall to return to them later like they are the capper to a fully nourished, satisfying through-line when in reality they are simply shots in the dark. On paper, Interstellar is pretty terrible. Continue reading
Review: Summer of 08: Tropic Thunder
2008’s Tropic Thunder, while far raunchier and more overblown, is the closest mainstream American cinema of the 2000’s has come to its own Sunset Blvd. While it was marketed as something of a comedy poking fun at war movies, that is only true by technicality. The narrative of the film, as such, has the movie stars making a war film let loose in the jungle where they must 1. survive, but more importantly, 2. battle their egos and the fact that their struggle isn’t just a test designed to help them work as a team in the name of making a better movie. If it pokes fun at war movies, that’s because the film is primarily a mockery of the filmmaking process at large, and more specifically, the actors, producers, directors, agents, and everyone else in Hollywood who combine limited skill with limitless, towering, monumental egos. Continue reading
This Southern Gothic update of Mark Twain’s study of a child’s eye of manhood establishes a fantastically minor-key sense of place, just as 2012’s Beasts of the Southern Wild did slightly downriver, with the Mississippi delta, before it. A character study and coming of age story at heart, it is bleak, submerging its layers of magical realism more subtly than did Beasts. It may be remembered mostly as a notable early role in the McConaughsaince, the amorphous terminology with which we have come to describe Matthew McConaughey’s career reinvention as a “serious” actor of superior craft, and his inscrutable work here is inspiring and wholly effective for the film. At the same time, the attention McConaughey received for the film, while not inaccurate, is somewhat misplaced. Above all, it fails to take into account how talented filmmaker Jeff Nichols uses McConaughey, which is largely as one signpost on his much larger tapestry of Southern woe. Continue reading
Films I Wished I’d Remembered or Seen for My Top 10 of 2012 list (AKA: Two McConaugheys, Two Soderberghs, Three Films). And Also There’s Silver Linings Playbook.
William Friedkin’s deliciously fleshy, brazen black comedy Killer Joe is a whole lot more meaningful than its word-on-the-street cred as another film in a long list of newfound career-redefining roles for Matthew McConaughey might suggest, but his performance speaks more than anything to the tone and effect of the movie. He re-reads the laid-back seductive charm he built his career on to play a crawling-king-snake of a Southern devil here, a police detective moonlighting as an assassin as convincingly nasty as he is ruthlessly in-human and clever. He’s the backbone of not only a number of fine performances dancing around his pointedly superficially cool-as-can-be anti-hero (the veterans Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon in particular giving us two commandingly lived-in performances as a husband and wife struggling to get-by), but a damn fine film. Continue reading