“Dallas Buyers Club” is directed by Jean-Marc Vallee and stars Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, and Jennifer Garner (pictured).
“Dallas Buyers Club” is a film of superb acting, and that alone is reason enough to go see this picture. Like colleague Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey has been reborn. He continues his renaissance with what could be the best performance of his career. Much was made about the physical transformation he undertook for this part; losing 40 pounds to capture a sickly, skeleton like AIDS stricken body. He plays Ron Woodroof, a hard partying, discriminatory sex hound in 1980’s Texas, smack dab in the middle of the AIDS epidemic. The film is based on a true account of Ron Woodroof and his exploits.
The movie opens with Woodroof at a rodeo event doing what he does best, which is having sex and hustling. As an electrician at work the next day, he is involved in an accident. At the hospital, it is revealed through blood work that he is HIV positive. His T Cell count is crucially low, and the doctors give him 30 days to live. He doesn’t take the news well, and immediately expresses doubt with the diagnosis by hurling homophobic slurs and stubborn pride. Woodroof goes right back to drugs and his excessive lifestyle. But, after a couple of days and some more symptoms, his friends start to distance themselves from him, and he slowly accepts the hard truth. McConaughey very effectively embodies Woodroof’s early denial and crudeness, only to become desperate and seemingly helpless as this dreaded journey continues.
He begins to research all he can about the disease, and works up a scam to get himself some AZT, the only FDA approved drug in America to treat HIV/AIDS. However, as history and our film displays, this drug is extremely toxic, and does more harm than good. After a near death experience due to the drug, Woodroof then makes his way to Mexico to seek out a disgraced doctor from the states. He supplies him with some vitamin supplements and proteins. Alas, these treatments turn out to be much more effective. Of course, they are unapproved by the FDA, therefore unavailable in the US. But Woodroof decides to ignore that and smuggle the pharmaceuticals anyways. Whether he’s a priest or whatever disguise he hatches up, McConaughey successfully shoots some humor into a man with his back against the wall, doing whatever it takes to prolong his wife.
Back in Texas, Woodroof teams up with Rayon, an AIDS stricken transvestite he met in the hospital earlier. Rayon is played by Jared Leto, also physically transformed. Leto puts great emotion and realism into his performance, completely masked underneath this character. Together, these two start the Dallas Buyers Club, whereby they charge HIV riddled people a monthly membership fee, to supply them with the unapproved supplements. Along the way, they clash with Jennifer Garner’s doctor, and a couple of would be antagonists; that is, the head doctor who supports AZT, and an FDA agent who s constantly breathing down Woodroof’s neck. Throughout the film, McConaughey takes us through Woodroof’s spiritual journey. He never really fully sheds his hate monger ways, but he does become more sympathetic. All the while, it is a man who begins to appreciate life more and more every day. His performance is brilliant. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him nab a best actor Oscar nod this coming winter. For that matter, Jared Leto could be in the supporting actor mix as well.
Overall, this film has some decent scriptwork and directing, but McConaughey and Leto are what make this film work. They elevate it. Without them, it is hard to see this movie being as effective.
RATING: 3 stars