Classic Movie Review: Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Posted: March 16, 2014 in Drama
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Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey) is a Dallas electrician, who gets the HIV virus in 1986, and he’s given 30 days to live by the doctors, who treat him in a local clinic.  Ron tries to get into an experimental trial for AZT, an experimental drug that treats HIV, but is rejected for the trial. Undaunted, Ron buys all the AZT he can on the black market, but his eyes are opened when he goes to Mexico, and is treated by Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne) who treats Ron with a cocktail of vitamins and drugs that the FDA hasn’t approved yet.  Ron gets the idea of going into business with a transvestite named Rayon (Jared Leto) who Ron met at the hospital.  The business involved Ron smuggling illegal drugs from Mexico, and opening up the Dallas Buyers Club, which offered members drugs in exchange for a 400 dollar membership fee.

The government learns of Ron’s activities and soon the FDA, and IRS are trying to shut down the Dallas Buyer Club, but Ron is as tenacious as a man facing a death sentence can be.  Ron sues the FDA, for access to these unapproved AIDS drugs.  Does Ron win his lawsuit?  How long does he live after only being given 30 days to live?

This is a wonderful movie, not because everybody holds hands and sings Kum Bayah, but because it perfectly encapsulates the mood of people in the 1980’s about AIDS.  The mood in one word was a mood of fear.  People were dying of an unknown disease, most commonly linked with gays, and everyone was afraid.  The people who had AIDS didn’t want to die, and would do anything to prevent from being a statistic, and the people who didn’t have AIDS, didn’t want it, and didn’t want to associate with people who had AIDS.  It also shows how Ron Woodruff, initially in denial, really did his research on HIV medications, and really tried to help others live.  This movie is not perfect, there is a moment where it spouts statistics and sounds like an after school special, and the movie is a bit long overall.  In the final analysis, Dallas Buyers Club rises above cliché because of the remarkable performances of McConaughey and Leto.

McConaughey gives a powerhouse performance, he is  unapologetically homophobic, and racist, but his pure survival instinct forces him to associate with gays and others that he probably wouldn’t associate with in order to live another day.  He never quite loses his taste for bad habits, drug use, prostitutes, and that makes his character all the more real.  Leto is a perfect counterpoint to McConaughey, kind and gentle, even giving MConaughey’s character a leg massage when his calf gets cramps.  There is a heartbreaking scene featuring Leto, I will not give it away but it is his best scene in the movie. They both deserved their Oscars.   Jennifer Garner was pretty good, I wouldn’t say she held her own, but she wasn’t bad, and even had a memorable scene of her own.

The story is a bit long, the pacing is a bit slow at times, but those are minor flaws, in a very good film.

Dallas Buyers Club.  Buy, buy, buy.


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