Release Date: November 1, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Set in the mid-eighties during the heyday of the AIDS crisis, Dallas Buyers Club stars Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe) as Ron Woodroof, a rough-and-tumble Texas electrician/amateur rodeo cowboy who, thanks to his sexual promiscuity, finds himself coming up HIV positive. By the time he is diagnosed, he is on the verge of full-blown AIDS and given 30 days to live.
He hears about the experimental drug AZT and asks his doctor, Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner from Butter), if he can participate. He is told that he does not qualify for the study, so he finds a connection within the hospital to steal the drug and sell it to him. The AZT makes him even sicker, so he does a little research and hooks up with a Mexican connection that supplies him with an alternative treatment which consists of a combination of non-FDA approved supplements and proteins.
His new treatment regime works wonders for him and he seems to make a miraculous recovery. With the help of a fellow AIDS patient, a cross-dressing homosexual named Rayon (Requiem for a Dream‘s Jared Leto), he smuggles his treatment ingredients into America and distributes them to other needy patients, using the loophole that he is selling “subscriptions,” and giving the drugs away to his subscribers.
The new business, which they call the Dallas Buyers Club, attracts the attention of the FDA, the DEA, and the major pharmaceutical companies, all of which want to shut it down, while Ron and Rayon just want to provide an effective treatment to their patients.
Director Jean-Marc Vallee (The Young Victoria) takes a very gritty, unflinching approach to the story. There is more than a touch of cinematic flair in the film, thanks to the creative cinematography of Yves Belanger (Laurence Anyways) and some skillful montage editing by Vallee, but at the heart of the film is the struggle of the main character. The journey of Ron Woodroof through the stages of grief is what drives the film and, as unlikeable as he is in the beginning, the audience ends up rooting for him once he finds his calling.
Dallas Buyers Club is an emotional film, but not in a sappy way. It’s a warts-and-all kind of movie, like Trainspotting or Boogie Nights; the hipster’s version of Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia.
There’s even a hint of doomed romantic intrigue in the friendship between Ron and Dr. Eve. The different angles and interpretations do not mean that the film lacks focus; on the contrary, Jean-Marc Vallee knows exactly what he wants to say, and he says it perfectly. Dallas Buyers Club is just able to communicate its point on many different levels.
Matthew McConaughey’s performance in Dallas Buyers Club is uncanny. The actor put himself through a Christian Bale-like (The Machinist) body transformation for the role of Ron Woodroof, losing weight until he appears to be skin and bones; this does not look like the same McConaughey over which audiences fawned in Magic Mike.
However, it’s more than a gaunt face, silly haircut, and Village People-esque mustache that makes McConaughey’s performance so memorable. He absolutely nails the part of a he-man macho stud who suddenly finds himself infected with a “homosexual” disease. McConaughey works the arc of the character to perfection, going from pompous, arrogant jerk to sensitive, honest hero, and he does it all believably.
Rayon is the perfect effeminate foil to Ron’s testosterone-fueled dude, and Leto plays it amazingly well. He and McConaughey are two extremes who share a common bond, and they both light up the screen in Dallas Buyers Club.
Sound designer Anton Fischlin (Nitro) has this neat trick that he does at certain points in Dallas Buyers Club. Whenever Ron is having a medical spell or a seizure, the audio will mute except for a high-pitched ringing sound, putting the audience into the character’s head. Combined with the dizzying visuals and Matthew McConaughey’s convincing performance, empathy for Ron is generated with the viewer through the representation of his suffering.
Wisely, the rest of the sound in Dallas Buyers Club leans towards the realistic, making these instances really stand out. By the end, the technique is a bit overused and predictable, but effective nonetheless, providing the audience with a vicarious experience throughout Dallas Buyers Club.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Jean-Marc Vallee
- Screenwriter(s): Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack
- Cast: Jared Leto (Rayon), Matthew McConaughey (Ron Woodroof), Jennifer Garner (Dr. Eve Saks), Dallas Roberts (David Wayne)
- Editor(s): Martin Pensa
- Cinematographer: Yves Belanger
- Country Of Origin: USA