Dallas Buyers Club (2013) – Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto give fine performances in this powerful, fact-based drama. McConaughey portrays Ron Woodruff, a Texan who contracts AIDS through unprotected sex with a prostitute in 1985. Since this is the beginning of the AIDS crisis, the only drug available is AZT. The side effects of that medication are almost as bad as the disease. Woodruff is given 30 days to live, but defies expectations by importing unapproved drugs from Mexico, and treating himself. With the help of Rayon, a transgender woman and fellow patient, Woodruff creates the “Dallas Buyers Club” and provides the drugs to other patients for a price, which also helps finance his purchases of the medications.
This isn’t the usual “feel good” story about a man completely changing his views on life due to a personal issue. Woodruff starts out as homophobic,and something of a jerk, but by the film’s end he does grow up a bit. Still, there’s no “overnight change” to his character. He does have charm & wit, and is able to use these qualities to get what he wants. Through his actions, even if they start out as selfishly motivated, he ends up saving a lot of lives. The two leads portray fully realized characters; McConaughey & Leto deservedly took home Oscars for their amazing work in the film. There’s also good supporting work from Jennifer Garner, Denis O’Hare and Steve Zahn. The solid direction is by Jean Marc-Vallée and the insightful screenplay was written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack. One of 2013's best films. Highly recommended.
Blue Jasmine (2013) – There’s some good acting in this comedy-drama written & directed by Woody Allen, but the characters are somewhat neurotic & the story is not well developed. Cate Blanchett starts as Jasmine, a New York society wife whose financier husband (Alec Baldwin) goes to prison for fraud. Suddenly, the well to do life she’s known is gone; she heads to California to reconnect with her sister (Sally Hawkins) and start over. But she can’t seem to shake off her old life. Stories & secrets about her past are revealed in flashback. She meddles in her sister Ginger's life (and lies about her own to a new romantic interest) with almost disastrous results.
There’s an all-star supporting cast including Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K., Bobby Cannavale and Andrew Dice Clay (who’s very good) as Jasmine’s former brother-in-law. But the lead character isn’t very likable (despite a great performance from Oscar winner Blanchett) and you find it hard to care about any of these people. Jasmine is so self centered (and self deluded) that it’s tough to feel sympathy for her. I haven’t seen a lot of Allen’s recent films, but I found this one tough to like. You can’t fault the actors, who are uniformly excellent. They’re the reason to watch this so-so film; Blanchett did take home the 2013 Best Actress Oscar for her work in the movie, and Hawkins was nominated as Best Supporting Actress. Both films are currently available on Blu-ray & DVD, and for digital viewing: here's a link to the trailers for Dallas Buyers Club: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvMPU0WaPcc & Blue Jasmine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZ8t31LhNl0.