Dallas Buyer’s Club (2013) is an Oscar-nominated biographical drama about a heterosexual Texas cowboy, Ron Woodroof, who in 1985 contracts HIV from unprotected sex at a time when the only promising treatment, AZT, was still being tested by the FDA. The story focuses on Woodroof, who, because of his inability to access AZT, resorts to using some drug in Mexico that seems to help him and then becomes an entrepreneur in making the unapproved drug available throughout north Texas. Eventually the feds shut him down, but not before he survives for seven years past the 30 days he was given to live after his initial diagnosis. Matthew McConaughey won an Oscar for playing Woodroof, and his transgender sidekick is played Jared Leto, who won a supporting Oscar. Jennifer Garner has a supporting role, too, as a sympathetic doctor, but she seems gratuitous to the plot. Her only significance is to create some discomfort for me in the end when it seems like the heretofore low-life McConaughey, redeemed by his entrepreneurial success with drugs, begins to think that a beautiful doctor might be interested in him romantically. Thankfully, he doesn’t hit on her, but still McConaughey’s transformation, both social and financial, is too extreme to be plausible. The Rotten Tomato critics love the movie at 94% and the audience is almost as good at 92%. Not me – I give it only two and a half stars out of four.
Doubt (2008) is a drama about a young, progressive priest who is suspected by an elderly nun of being a child molester. I chose this movie because the priest is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who has been characterized as the greatest actor of his generation since his death earlier this year. Plus Meryl Steep plays the nun, and she is often described as the best actress of her generation. Amazingly, both Hoffman and Streep were nominated for Oscars, as were two inconsequential supporting thespians, Amy Adams (a naïve nun) and Viola Davis (the abused’s mother). The theme of the movie is intriguing because it is set in 1964, a time when most people were not aware of the problem with priests. Yet Streep is much more conscientious in addressing the problem than Joe Paterno was just a few years ago. The movie’s major disappointment is Hoffman. I was prepared for him to knock my socks off, and while he adequately acted as the young, progressive priest early in the movie, he utterly failed later in the movie to reflect the sick malefactor when Streep exposes him. Rarely have I seen an actor seem more obviously as an actor instead of the character. The Rotten Tomato critics and audiences agree at 78%. I disagree and give it only two and a half stars out of four.