AIDS/HIV Virus has been with us for decades, once regarded as the Black man’s disease before becoming the gay man’s disease in the 1980’s. In Dallas Buyers Club (2013) the disease becomes the heterosexual man’s disease a film that highlights the prejudices sufferers faced. Most of all cementing in cinematic folklore, Matthew McConaughey as one of the film’s finest actors.
Set in 1985 we meet Ron Woodruff (McConaughey) an electrician by trade but at night you would find him at the local rodeo getting drunk, snorting drugs and having unprotected sex with anything in a skirt. After a small accident at work, Ron awakens on a hospital bed to be told he has HIV and has 30 days to live.
After a period of denial, sitting around feeling sorry for himself and doing what got him into trouble in the first place (unprotected sex), Ron grasps at the opportunity to research possible medicines that may lead to a cure or at least improve his life. Using what money he had left Ron travels to the 4 corners of the Earth to obtain those medicines on the Black Market. On his journey, he forms an unlikely friendship (& partnership) with Transgender Rayon (Jared Leto) a fellow sufferer who Ron uses her streetwise qualities to form a subscription based ‘club’ to provide sufferers medicines that will improve their lives. That club is the Dallas Buyers Club.
There’s always light at the end of the tunnel and pay your dues take each step as it comes a helping hand will be waiting to greet you help you up, you could say this has been like Matthew McConaughey’s career of lately. Each film has been a revelation as in a resurgence in his career from Killer Joe, Mud, Magic Mike even The Paperboy and his recent cameo in The Wolf Of Wall Street to Dallas Buyers Club have all played their part.He’s delivered refreshingly astute performances in every film intriguing most of all committed (his drastic loss of weight to play Ron Woodruff).
Ron is not a nice person, he’s homophobic, racist most of a sleaze bag who’ll openly abuse, snort a line of coke have sex with any woman thinking about the ‘fun’ element rather than his health. Ironically Ron’s character is based on a real-life man who was gay not a homophobic loser who over time realises those he called ‘faggot’ ‘cocksucker’ are real humans with emotion like him.
McConaughey deserved his Oscar accolade but so did his co-lead Jared Leto whose performance polarised his fellow lead. Leto matched match him on every level as Rayon, his street-wise level-headiness gave Ron his platform to unleash his entrepreneurial talents. When we meet You have no empathy for him until he meets Rayon when reality hits home. She allures with gentleness, femininity, that opens his eyes to the vulnerability of those the disease attacks, even when Rayon win’s Ron’s trust he still refers to his clients as cocksuckers. It’s only when Ron confronts one of former redneck buddies in the local supermarket whose behind the ostracization he has a true friend who understands his pain.
Dallas Buyers Club attempts to highlight something that Hollywood has rarely showcased in cinematic history, the AIDS/HIV virus. 30 years after the period the film is set the disease is still there, however, it’s no more the Black or gay man’s disease but one that affects everyone, life expectancy has improved and it’s no more a stigma.
Dallas Buyers Club delivers a defying message of determination, hope, uplifting for those underdogs fighting against all odds, one that even those not battling a deadly disease will be inspired. This is a film that McConaughey and Leto fight not to gain sympathy but a right to live “I’m fighting for a life that I haven’t got time to live.I want it to mean something”. Apart from the fact the film plays on the notion pharmaceuticals are evil it’s a film all about the performances who deliver a performance worthy of their Oscars. Heartfelt, compelling full of passion and dedication, an empathetic portrayal that sidesteps the melodrama of its predecessors that’s grounded but most of all emotionally gratifying.
★★★★| Paul Devine
Drama | Canada, 2013 | 15 | 2nd June 2014 (UK) | Entertainment One | Dir.Jean-Marc Vallée | Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Denis O’Hare, Steve Zahn | Buy: Dallas Buyers Club [Blu-ray]