Title: “Dallas Buyers Club”
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Writers: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Ron Woodroof is a Texas cowboy who has old school views until he is diagnosed with AIDS and given 30 days to live. This is 1985, so treatments were still being sought out at this time. After finding himself unable to get the potentially life-saving drug AZT (although this drug has a number of problems of its own), he crosses the border into Mexico and meets a doctor who can give him access to large amounts of this and other life-saving medications that can improve the lives of AIDS patients but are not available in the U.S. due to a lack of FDA approval. So he begins bringing the drugs over the border and forms the Dallas Buyers Club, where people pay for membership but get the drugs for free, with the idea of skirting prescription drug laws, which doesn’t necessarily work well legally as he finds out.
In what could be considered a potential followup to last year’s Oscar-nominated documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” “Dallas Buyers Club” is based on a true story from this era about how the AIDS epidemic was handled and how large pharmaceutical corporations tried to cash in on ineffective treatments. It’s a story that was touched on the aforementioned documentary but explored in more detail here.
The main things that carries this film is the acting. First, Matthew McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof as a bit of an arrogant ass. However, I heard some people who knew the real Ron Woodroof when he was alive and they said that, well, he really was kind of an ass. McConaughey practically ruined his health for this role, dropping 47 pounds and being seen having trouble standing on his own. That takes commitment, even if he’s not the first person to do this. But the sacrifice paid off. McConaughey played the role so well and he looks so different. Secondly, Jared Leto plays the role of Rayon, a transgender woman with AIDS who befriends the homophobic Woodroof. Again, Leto reportedly lost 30 pounds for this role, and under all the makeup, I actually wasn’t sure it was him when I first saw him. He loses himself in the role and makes it incredibly believable.
Story-wise, this film tells a solid story, although at times it’s a little confusing. We’re not always sure how much time is really passing between scenes, which is likely due to some editing trouble. However, when you’re dealing with people who have a limited amount of time left, as well as drug trials and the like, knowing the timing of events is important. The story can occasionally drag, and I didn’t like the way the film ended before an actual resolution was found. It basically ends at one point and we’re told the eventual outcome through a screen card that simply tells us what happened. Kind of a fail there. It was like they didn’t have the budget or desire to keep the story going.
With incredible performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto and a solid true story, “Dallas Buyers Club” is a great film that should be watched to study how one of the great plagues of our time was handled so poorly. However, the film gets bogged down by questionable editing and a poor ending that detract from the film’s overall effect. I still like the film a lot, but with reservations.
“Dallas Buyers Club” earns 4 out of 5 stars.