Duets: Rush and Dallas Buyers Club


Since my first Duets post got a pretty positive response, I’ve decided to give it another whirl! Slightly different parameters this time though: instead of restricting myself to reviewing two films still in theaters, I’ve decided to open it up to new (or at least somewhat new) DVD releases. Basically, it’ll be whatever I can snag at the library…which is often a free-for-all, but I’m pretty scrappy, so I managed to come away with a couple good ones this time: Rush and Dallas Buyers Club. Let’s begin, shall we?



Synopsis: “The merciless 1970s rivalry between Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda.” –www.imdb.com

The high notes:

  • Chris Hemsworth. The man has more charm than a human being should be allowed to have. As Formula One racecar driver, James Hunt, Hemsworth plays a cocky, stubborn, slutty character that we probably shouldn’t like, but we totally do. Also, he is super pretty. And did I mention that we get to see his butt? Oh, yeah, I forgot—the whole world noticed that. But yeah. We get to see his butt.
  • The relationship between James Hunt and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl). I’m not sure how closely it resembles their real-life “frenemy” story, but it’s pretty interesting. In many ways, they’re polar opposites, but they have a mutual obsession with racing and, frankly, with each other. Hemsworth and Brühl bring this out well, and watching their relationship evolve is fascinating.
  • The visuals. I’m not very good at identifying technical stuff, particularly anything involving cameras, but it seemed to me that everything was filmed in a way that accentuated cooler shades of color. Maybe they used some kind of filter? I don’t know. Whatever they did to produce that effect, it worked for me. And there are plenty of interesting shots at the racetrack. The one that sticks out to me the most is a slow-motion scene in Tokyo when the rain is pouring. Very cool.

The low notes:

  • Not being a fan of any form of racecar driving, I found it a little hard to get into that aspect of things, particularly in the beginning. As I grew attached to the characters, I was able to get past this, but for a little while I wasn’t sure I was going to care for this one.
  • The female characters are not developed. Like, at all. I realize this story is supposed to focus on Hunt and Lauda, but when you cast Olivia Wilde as a main squeeze, you should have more “umph” behind the character. In the case of both Hunt’s wife, Suzy (Wilde), and Lauda’s wife, Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara), we basically meet them, watch them get married, and then learn almost nothing else about them. Um. ‘Kay.
  • The themes are way too heavy-handed. Hunt and Lauda are different but kinda the same? Yep, I get it. Death is ever-present on the racetrack? Uh huh, get that, too. Hunt is addicted to the rock-n-roll lifestyle and that’s not good? OKAY, RON HOWARD, YOU ARE MAKING YOUR POINTS. Give the audience some credit! We can figure all that out without having it shoved in our faces.

The staccato version: Rush is a fast-paced, thrilling look into a fascinating rivalry that shook up Formula One racing. Keyword: “fast-paced.” The first half of the film clips along so rapidly that it might be hard to get into for awhile, but once you get to know the two leads and find the true heart  of the film, it’s pretty darn solid. A little cheesy in the end and not without flaws throughout, but an enjoyable ride.

My Grade: B+

Dallas Buyers Club

dbc poster

Synopsis: “In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease.” –www.imdb.com

The high notes:

  • The performances. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto definitely earn their Oscars in this film. McConaughey completely embraces the determined, slightly abrasive character of rodeo-cowboy-turned-buyers-club-initiator Ron Woodroof. Between this and True Detective, McConaughey has been knocking it out of the park lately. I haven’t seen Leto in much, but he is certainly no less impressive as sassy transgender woman Rayon. You ache for these characters as the film goes on, and it’s a powerful feeling.
  • Ron and Rayon’s relationship. Things start off pretty frigid, and Ron’s homophobic tendencies keep them that way for some time, but the rapport that these two develop is wonderful. Gradually, Ron becomes more open-minded, recognizing Rayon not only as a valuable partner but a friend. It’s not a dramatic transformation, but it feels like what a real-life relationship would be.
  • Seeing the HIV/AIDS outbreak from the perspective of both those infected and from doctors/drug companies. Honestly, it’s a part of history I don’t know much about, so to learn about these buyers clubs that popped up all over the U.S. during the ‘80s was pretty fascinating.

The low notes:

  • I find it hard to find big things to pick on in this film, so I’m going to mention a few scenes that I found random and kind of unnecessary. Random scene #1: Ron has sex in a bathroom some woman. Everyone can hear it. Um. ‘Kay.
  • Random scene #2: Ron enters a room filled with butterflies, and it’s really, really cool and beautiful, but also really, really random. I didn’t dislike the moment—it just felt like it was a moment from a completely different film.
  • Random scenes #3 and #4: the opening and the ending. The opening, which involves…well, I won’t ruin it for you. It’s just kind of weird and random, though I guess it does introduce us to the kind of person Ron is. As for the ending, it felt fairly abrupt and, at one point, even a little cheesy. Not a bad ending, per se, but I had hoped for a little more impact.

The staccato version: My qualms with this film are almost nonexistent. Anchored by strong performances from McConaughey and Leto, Dallas Buyers Club is a raw, moving film that provides a new look at the outbreak of the HIV/AIDS crisis. The story is gripping and the characters feel completely real. This one definitely has my recommendation.

My Grade: A

31 thoughts on “Duets: Rush and Dallas Buyers Club

  1. Top reviews! Rush was my favourite film from last year. the strokes were a little broad and it was all pretty obvious but I just had so much fun with it. And I really liked Dallas Buyers Club. I think the performances were better than the film but still thought it was excellent.

    • Thanks, Chris! I actually expected to like Rush more than Dallas Buyers Club, but I dunno–just didn’t quite do it for me. I did still enjoy the film though. And I see where you’re coming from with DBC. The performances do carry the film, but for me it just WORKED. Loved it. 🙂

  2. Haven’t seen Rush, but heard many good things. Pretty gutted I missed it at the cinema – must’ve been loud and extremely revvy! As for Dallas Buyers Club, I’m with you Cara. For me the performances are better than the film, but it’s difficult to top exceptional. And the film is pretty darn good anyway. Great work Cara!


    • Thanks, Adam! Glad to hear that you were impressed by DBC, too! I’ve never paid much attention to McConaughey, but he has my complete respect now. I just thought he was phenomenal. And you might look into Rush! Not a perfect film, but pretty good. If you’re a Hemsworth fan, it’s worth a view. 🙂

  3. I thought Ron Howard should have been nominated for Best Director. For the reasons you state here and I like that he kept things interesting even for people who don’t particularly like racing films.

  4. Agreed on both. Rush is good, but not great, because it often slams us with the same messages too many times. And because it doesn’t develop the female characters at all. Like offensively not at all.

    Incidentally, Ruth loaned me a documentary about the real life story of Hunt and Lauda (called 1976 – I think). Turns out the relationship between the two men was not all that heated, in reality. Apparently they were friends, not frienemies.

    As to Dallas Buyers Club. Yeah that’s just good. With very small flaws good.

    • Oh we are totally on the same page with Rush (as we so often are). Y’know, I wondered about their real-life relationship. I figured the tension was played up, and I wondered how much. I especially wondered if Hunt really punched that journalist…Meant to bring that up actually. How did he not get in trouble?! Lol. Ditto on DBC. So very great.

      • The ’70s were a different time. The documentary doesn’t say whether or not he punched anyone (I’m inclined to doubt it), but it is theoretically possible a single punch wouldn’t have landed him in much trouble back then. Now though? Now he’d be facing assault charges.

  5. I liked the first more than you and the second not as much so I’d swap the grades ha. Always great to see your stuff. With Rush I really did love the rivalry. The acting in The Dallas Buyers Club is so exceptional and it is a moving and informative film. You nailed it in your review about how the story highlights a part of history I knew so little about. With the sex scene I thought it showed how he was comfortable having sex with someone with aids.

    • Thanks, Alex! Yeah I got that he has sex with the woman because she has AIDS, too, but I just didn’t get why we needed to see it, y’know? Especially since nothing is done with her character after that and there’s not any reflecting on why it happened. Still–minor flaw. The film’s great. 🙂

  6. Hi Cara!

    I didn’t really like Rush very much and, after my dismal reception to American Hustle I doubt I’ll ever watch Dallas Buyer’s Club.

    Your post rocks though!!!

    • I wondered if you’d seen Rush! Gees the Mutant isn’t going to be happy with us for not thinking it’s all that and a bag of chips, huh? Whoops. And yeah–don’t watch DBC. Def not your thing. Although #boobs! Lol. Thanks, buddy! 🙂

  7. I actually enjoyed DBC a lot because of the performances, but I can’t see myself rushing out to see it again so soon.

    AS for Rush, I found it to be pretty good, but not excellent.

    Nicely done Cara!

    • Thanks, Rob! Yeah, DBC might not be the kind of film you watch over and over, but I was just so impressed. Rush, sadly, let me down a little. It’s exactly like you say–pretty good, not excellent. I don’t regret watching it at least! 🙂

  8. I think both of these films are good examples of performances raising the quality of the movie. Both would be pretty good but not great films if it wasn’t for Bruhl and McConaughey. Love your reviews Cara

  9. Great reviews. I basically agree on Rush. It’s good but for me it spends too much time elsewhere and doesn’t do a good enough job developing relationships. And you are spot on – the female characters are complete throwaways. It’s a shame because I wanted to know more about how they fit into the racers’ lives.

    DBC is a little different. For me it is a performance-driven picture. It starts really strong but in the end it got away from what I found most compelling in the first half. And I did think Leto’s character becomes to obvious at the end and basically becomes an emotional tool. Regardless, watching MM work in this flick is simply stunning. That guy has the chops!

    • Thanks, Keith. I do agree that the end of DBC isn’t quite as strong as the beginning…but I still loved it. Lol. Yeah McConaughey is amazing. Makes me so very glad he won that Oscar!

  10. Excellent reviews Cara. I have not seen Rush yet, but I recently saw Dallas Buyers Club and I have to say if not for the performances the film would have been mostly bland!

    Scrap away master scrapstress! Who would DARE to take you on?!

    • I’ve been hearing that about DBC from a lot of people! I don’t know what it was, but I just loved it. Ah well. I bet you’d like Rush! You should give it a whirl.

      Master Scrapstress?!?!

      …That is officially the best crime-fighting name EVER. Totes adopting it.


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