Dallas Buyers Club is based on the true story of Ron Woodroof, a bigoted white trash texan who contracts HIV in the mid 80’s during the HIV/AIDS pandemic of that time. Being given only a month to live he begins to smuggle unapproved drugs from Mexico into the USA in an effort to give himself and others more time to live. The film stars Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in a career high performance. It also stars actor/rockstar and Jack of all trades Jared Leto as Rayon a AIDS transgendered woman and Jennifer Garner as a local doctor.
The film is rather bittersweet with the mood shifting from happy to sad quickly and frequently as Ron comes to terms with both his illness and the laws that gets in his way of him trying to help himself and other people. It also acts as a stark reminder of the HIV/AIDS pandemic when the disease was less understood and those who had it were often seen as already dead and ostracized from the community. The film also is heavily political in its messages and at points seems to be attacking at the American healthcare system and the FDA. While the film has been in development since the early 90’s it has come out at the perfect time where healthcare is at the front of most political battles in the states.
Matthew McConaughey delivers a beautiful performance as Ron. Who would have guessed that the star of ‘Failure to Launch’ and ‘Ghosts of Girlfriends Past’ could deliver an oscar worthy performance? The past few years have been brilliant for McConaughey who now has shown that he is a serious actor and that he is one of the best after great perfomances in Mud and The Wolf of Wall Street. He really has put his body on the line for this role losing lots of weight in preperation. Just by looking at gaunt his face during the movie you can see the character’s arc and the various stages of grief Ron goes through.
Jared Leto supports as Rayon, Ron’s business partner and an AIDS positive transgender woman. He gives a complete and complex performance that acts as a perfect partner for Ron to bounce off of. Most of the lighthearted moments from the film come from Ron and Rayon’s relationship as, at first, they seem to be the opposite of each other. Perhaps the best thing about Leto’s performance is that Rayon feels like a real transgender woman not a crude caricature. Raydon helps to put the HIV/AIDS hysteria of the 80’s within the LGBT context which, while isn’t too important to the film, certainly makes it feel more fleshed out.
Overall, the strengths within Dallas Buyers Club is in it’s acting and story. The look of the film is not all that but nor should it be. The direction is understated and natural which helps ground the drama in reality. Both Leto and McConaughey give career high performances and act as the foundations to this emotionally heavy film. Nominated for 6 Oscars it is definitely worth a watch.
Dallas Buyers Club is out in cinemas on the 7th of February.