Tag: jared leto

Dallas Buyers Club


Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
★★★ / ★★★★

An accident at work leads Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) to the hospital. After going through his blood work, the doctor tells Ron that he has AIDS and it is estimated that he has only about a month to live. Ron responds with outrage and insists the diagnosis is a mistake. He is, after all, not a homosexual and has never had homosexual encounters. Though he later decides to take treatments in the form of experimental and high dosages of AZT, he becomes convinced that AZT is not a good solution. It made him feel very sick. When Ron hears about alternative drugs in Mexico—drugs that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration—he goes there to obtain the medications.

Based on the screenplay by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, “Dallas Buyers Club” captures the confusion and desperation of people in the ‘80s who lived with AIDS. Forget a typical character arc in which the main character embraces valuable lessons along the way. Ron learns a thing or two but that is far from the point. We just so happen to see the story through his eyes. It could have been told from the perspective of Rayon (Jared Leto), a transgender woman and Ron’s eventual business partner, and the story would still be interesting.

The picture falls a bit short on providing sufficient specifics regarding Ron’s drug deals abroad. We see large paintbrushes of what he must do—contacting the necessary individuals, putting on a disguise, taking the plane, bribing—but there are not enough conversations that detail the business deals. Sometimes the material leans too much on images to convey an idea. While a good framework, it is not always the best way to amp up the drama in a subtler way.

McConaughey and Leto provide solid performances. The relationship of their characters snuck up on me because I thought I saw them only as partners in running the Dallas Buyers Club, a business that offers a person a variety of drugs, proteins, and vitamins—less deadly than AZT that hospitals use—for four hundred dollar per month membership. But then the second half comes around and we realize how they have learned to help each other not just from the financial side but also in sharing an experience of carrying a disease that will kill them eventually. We know they will die because there is no cure, only treatment that prolongs.

I wished it had shown more images of how AIDS wreck havoc on the body. We see a bit of McConaughey’s near emaciated frame and some blood being coughed out, but I got the impression that the film is not willing to go all the way and show the true ugliness and tragedy of the disease as in Friedman and Joslin’s “Silverlake Life: The View from Here.”

Regardless, “Dallas Buyers Club,” directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, is worth seeing mainly for the strong performances by McConaughey and Leto as well as successfully showing a time in which information that we know now about AIDS is not yet known.

Mr. Nobody


Mr. Nobody (2009)
★★ / ★★★★

“Mr. Nobody,” written and directed by Jaco Van Dormael, is one of those movies with a plot so vast and far-reaching that one can only attempt to describe its surface.

Telomerization, which prevents chromosomes from reaching a state of senescence, is a science that has been conquered. Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto) is the last of his kind: a 117-year-old man capable of dying due to old age. Naturally, this makes him a celebrity. A journalist (Daniel Mays) assigned to interview him is perplexed because Nemo admits on tape that he has lived several lives: a choice not made at the time is later made once the former choice—and the life thereafter—has run its course.

I admire movies with a whole lot of ambition instead of simply relying on same old thing. But movies that dare to dream and push the envelope should be supported by a screenplay that is consistently intelligent or insightful and commanding a certain level of clarity. Since the script lacks such qualities in certain sections, I am afraid that many will be lost somewhere in the folds of its alternate realities. Though it is two-and-half hours long, it does not come off successful in conveying everything it hopes to accomplish.

The movie is beautifully shot. In a way, it needs to be visually appealing because it invites us to look into a possible future that is filled with uncertainty. I enjoyed that even though science has made immortality possible, sometimes it feels almost like an afterthought. The future people continue to live their lives and we get only glimpses of their reality. At one point, the journalist asks the old man how it was like to have sex in the past. In the present, sex is obsolete.

There are three women in Nemo’s life—or lives—and they are given appropriate time on screen. As the film goes on, it becomes clear why Anna (Diane Kruger as an adult, Juno Temple as a teenager), Elise (Sarah Polley, Clare Stone), and Jean (Linh Dan Pham, Audrey Giacomini) end up making a lasting impression on our protagonist. Each woman offers Nemo a different dimension of love. Conversely, he is required, depending on the woman, to love in a specific way. We watch Nemo receiving and providing love. Therefore, it is necessarily that Leto give at least three different performances.

The way the screenplay sets up its alternate realities comes with a cost. Because it jumps from one life to another without a defined pattern, the material fails to build continuously. Though I realize it is not the movie that was made, perhaps it might have worked better if we were allowed to start with a life and then seeing it all the way through before moving onto a new one. This way, philosophical musings clearly designed to get the audience to think or consider might not have been lost in the shuffle.

A subplot that ought to have been front and center is criminally ignored at times. What triggers young Nemo’s ability (Thomas Byrne) to live multiple lives is his parents’ separation (Rhys Ifans, Natasha Little): he must decide whether to stay with his father in England or move to America with his mother. Why is it that we do not get more scenes of teenage Nemo (Toby Regbo, providing a wonderful layer angst and verve) interacting with his parents? At times it is almost like the movie is dealing with a disease in a nonsensical way: only dealing with the symptoms but rarely the root of the problem.

“Mr. Nobody” is an experience but it fails to make a lasting impression because select critical pieces are either not dealt with or merely pushed to the side. Just about halfway through I wondered how more effective it would have been given that it had embraced a more cerebral rather than a sentimentalized approach.

Requiem for a Dream


Requiem for a Dream (2000)
★★★ / ★★★★

Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) lived by herself and she spent most of her days watching television. When a caller informed her that she had been selected to appear on television, she became obsessed with the idea of losing weight and wearing her beautiful red dress for the occasion. Her first attempt at dieting didn’t work so she saw a doctor. The so-called doctor prescribed colorful “diet pills” which, unbeknownst to Sarah, were amphetamines. Her addiction reflected that of her son’s (Jared Leto), his best friend (Marlon Wayans), and girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly). Directed by Darren Aronofsky, the film’s approach was to showcase drug addiction as a slow descent to hell. Heavy-handed with its themes, it showed its characters in utter physical and mental pain with little hope of rehabilitation and a better life. On one hand, some of the scenes were well-made. Sara’s hallucinations of the refrigerator attempting to get close to her signified Sara’s subconscious need to eat. It was terrifying, especially when the fridge would appear out of nowhere, but at the same time I found it darkly comedic. I relished the scenes between Burstyn and Leto particularly the one when the son finally found the time to visit her lonely mother. Combined with Aronofsky’s sublime direction, Burstyn’s performance was electric when she expressed to her son what being on television really meant to her. Even I can admit I was on the verge of tears because I really cared for the character she created. Lastly, there was a shot the defined Leto and Connelly’s relationship. When they were laying next to each other on the bed, presumably after sex, there was a split-screen and the camera was fixated on their respective faces. It was meaningful to me because the message I extracted from it was despite the fact that they took up the same space, were looking at each other, and the words they uttered were directed at one another, it wasn’t a meaningful relationship because there was a disconnect between them. As long as they were under the influence of drugs, there would always be that disconnect because the need for the drugs would always be more powerful than their need for each other. That one scene was probably one of the most powerful in the film even though it didn’t show any drugs, just two people talking. I wish the rest of the picture was more like that. In other words, what the film desperately needed was subtlety. Most of the time, I felt like Aronofsky was hitting me over the head with a mallet every time he wanted to get a point across. It wasn’t necessary with people, like me, who can think for themselves and are aware of the pros and cons of drugs. His technique here would most likely appeal more to high school students. Based on Hubert Selby Jr.’s novel, “Requiem for a Dream” was nonetheless a powerful head trip. It was a classic case of unhappy individuals attempting to find happiness elsewhere other than within.