The anticipation for “Dallas Buyers Club” developed earlier this year when photos appeared online of McConaughey’s substantial weight loss. Matthew McConaughey had lost 50 pounds to play Ron Woodroof, a homophobic, drug-addict who is diagnosed with AIDS and given a mere 30 days to live.
He discovers that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has approved a new drug called AZT. AZT proves to cause more problems than solutions and Woodroof begins smuggling unapproved medications into the United States to deal them out, thus creating the Dallas buyers club with the help of a transgender woman named Rayon (Jared Leto) and a reluctant doctor named Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner.)“Dallas Buyers Club” is a movie that encompasses a real life situation and a real life protagonist. Many additional characters and situations are fictional. The amalgam of fictional and non-fictional elements works great. The fictional elements help drive the narrative along and provide much needed subtext on the complexity of Ron Woodroof’s internal conflict and the external conflict around him.
The film has conglomerated morals. The internal arch of a homophobic man wearing the other shoe and the external arch that exposes the lack of humanity in the medical market. The film, in a way, tackles FDA regulations the way a documentary would, in an attempt to increase awareness to an audience. In the end “Dallas Buyers Club” makes a strong case against the FDAs status quo.
If “Dallas Buyers Club” becomes a box-office success, a lot will be owed to the stirred up buzz by McConaughey’s weight loss. At the start of the film he is unrecognizable. Five years ago people would scoff at the idea of Matthew McConaughey becoming an Academy Award nominee, this role almost guarantees his position in this years race. Physical transformation aside, McConaughey also brings a balance of enthusiasm and self-destruction to Ron Woodroof. With the help of director Jean-Marc Vallee they are able to nail the tone of each scene.
Jared Leto was a surprise though. Leto lost 30 pounds to play a transgender woman named Rayon (a fictional character.) “Dallas Buyers Club” focuses as a character piece around Woodroof, but Rayon has a very touching scene that shifts the focus to his character, if only for a brief moment. Through Leto’s performance we find sympathy and understand that Rayon’s self-destructive drug habits come from the hatred she has experienced throughout her life as a homosexual. Something Woodroof is naive to in the beginning of the film, but learns when he is facing death alone and has been abandoned by his homophobic friends.
People will call “Dallas Buyers Club” Oscar-bait and they may be right. Vallee has kept the focus on the story and the morals it offers. From the beginning the film moves fast; scenes never really last more than five minutes. There isn’t much room for the movie to breathe, but it still works.
It’s hard to say what is wrong with “Dallas Buyers Club” when so much about it works. The execution being its greatest weakness. Vallee and writers Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack can’t seem to decide if they want to make a movie where the conflict is “man vs. man” or “man vs. himself.” In the end Woodroof is painted as a character who wouldn’t accept death. We see that part of his character intermittently throughout the film amidst the FDA take-down. See the film for McConaughey and Leto, take away from the film the morals you buy into.
Final Score: ★★★1/2