Monday, 24 February 2014



19. DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (2013, dir. Jean-Marc Vallée)


I was going to watch "Dallas Buyers' Club" at my local cinema, but looking up some information about it beforehand stopped me - so, I really am using it as a starting point here.

It looks like Jared Leto could win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the transsexual Rayon, although I hope that, with the advent of transgender actors like Alexis Arquette and Laverne Cox, star of the Netflix prison series "Orange is the New Black", it may be the last time a cisgender actor wins an award for portraying a transgender person, much like Tom Hanks and Sean Penn have won Oscars for portraying gay men - and anyway, where is the love for Cillian Murphy's character Kitten in Neil Jordan's film "Breakfast on Pluto" (2005)?

None of this put me off seeing the film. What did was wondering if Leto had a real-life counterpart from which he could create his role - in order to provide a singular focus for one side of the story portrayed in "Dallas Buyers Cub", Rayon was, like the cellulose fibre after which the character is named, is created from a number of real-life people in order to simplify the telling of the story, just like Jennifer Garner's character was created from a number of doctors. 

I have been stung by this before. Last year, BBC Four showed the Australian mini-series "Howzat! Kerry Packer's War," chronicling the media magnate's attempts to create a more glamorous competitor to Test Match Cricket. It was wonderfully done, richly detailing 1970s Australian society and the tension between its characters, and I would recommend it to anyone who finds it. 

I was particularly drawn to Packer's secretary and one of his executives, put through the ringer by the angry outbursts of a man trying to get his own way around people he thinks are letting him down. They looked like their lives were improving by the end, and I hoped I would hear what happened to them at the end, after the continuing lives of the cricketers portrayed were detailed. There was nothing. The credits rolled, and by the character's names were, in brackets, "Fictional Character" - they were only there to throw Kerry Packer into sharp relief, and they were the best ones there! I obviously have not gotten over it either!

There is certainly a way of telling the story of "Dallas Buyers Club," a real life story, without needing to introduce fictional characters. Arguably, it will be as a documentary, but I personally believe that, once you start on the slippery slope, any references to your story being based on a true one should be removed. Better still, make it more of a fictional story, like "American Hustle" did, then start the film by saying, "some of this actually happened" - at least, that feels more honest... 

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