In review: Dallas Buyers Club
Directed by the brilliant Jean-Marc Vallée, Dallas Buyers Club tells the story of an HIV-positive man in Texas during 1985. Played by Matthew McConnaughey, Ron Woodroof was a stereotypical hard-working Southern man: very racist and extremely homophobic.
An electrical mishap at work lands Woodroof in the emergency room where doctors discover that he has exceptionally low T-cell counts. Woodroof was given a mere thirty days to live. Analyzing his lack of response to AZT, an early-stage clinical drug, Woodroof acknowledges that the drug is worsening his fragility, which pushes him to discover that a combination of vitamins, and additional medications actually curbs symptoms of the deadly autoimmune disease. Woodroof soon partners with Rayon, a transgendered woman played by Jared Leto as unlikely companion, to sell this amalgamation of non-FDA approved ingredients to aids victims specifically within the gay community of Dallas, Texas.
The film is exceedingly insightful and unprecedentedly original. The acting is raw. Both McConnaughey and Leto underwent massive bodily transformations to accurately portray their characters. Visually, this enhanced the film’s credibility. The characters felt extremely realistic.
At one point in the film, Woodroof pulls his car over to the side of a road, glances at his shotgun resting in the passenger seat and considers suicide. Woodroof is consumed in the moment with the overwhelming choice of immediate death or a severely shortened lifespan and he sobs. I guarantee that viewers haven’t seen Woodroof utilize his potential this way.
Despite the praise I have awarded to these actors, additional cast members fell short. Jennifer Garner played Woodroof’s doctor which is faced with the ethical dilemmas about the administration of AZT to HIV patients. Her acting was awkward and timid and completely shadowed by her male counterparts. Unfortunately, the moments she had to convey emotion were empty.
On a lighter note, not only are the main actors phenomenal, the storyline sheds light on an illness that is still associated with many negative connotations today. Watching the destruction of AIDs up close and personal, especially during the 1980’s in Texas ,of all conservative states, was difficult but necessary. Perhaps most startling is the idea that almost 30 years after Woodroof’s experience, AIDs is still largely under-discussed and similarly misunderstood.
Overall, the entire production should be considered an achievement. McConnaughey and Leto gave performances earning them each Golden Globe awards for Best Performance by an Actor and Best Performance by a Ssupporting Actor.
The Dallas Buyers Club is desperate. It’s emotional. It’s transcendent. It’s allegorical. I strongly recommend seeing this film–it’s more than worth the ten-dollar admission price.