Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee
I had heard very little about the plot of “Dallas Buyers Club” before I began watching it. I had no idea what the silly title could possibly refer to, and all I knew was that it was about the rodeo, AIDS, and Jared Leto in drag. Maybe that’s why I was able to come away so surprised at just how brilliant and inspired “Dallas Buyers Club” actually is. It’s on my list of favorite movies from 2013, and easily near the top. Here’s why.
Well first, let me clear up any confusion you might have. Matthew McConaughey, coming off the best single year of his career, gives what I would say is just the tour de force performance he has always needed to spark his career from fun rom-com star to Hollywood stud. Anyway, he plays the real-life Ron Woodruff, a rabblerousin’ rodeo star and womanizer in 1985 who is shocked to discover he has tested positive with HIV. It’s the ’80s, when Americans were even more ignorant about HIV than they are now, so he can’t possibly have HIV – because he’s not gay. He’s given 30 days to live by doctors, including sympathizer Eve (Jennifer Garner). But Ron won’t go gentle into that good night. No, he plans on finishing off his life the way he lived it all along – in the company of whiskey, cocaine, and women. But when Ron discovers proven medical treatments that make him feel a little better, he wants to reach out and help others in his situation – even ones like Rayon (Jared Leto), a transgender AIDS patient. But Ron’s treatments aren’t FDA approved, and when the hospital hears of the Dallas Buyers Club – a loophole to the law allowing Woodruff and Rayon, his business partner, to sell unapproved AIDS treatments to desperate patients – they try their darnedest to stop him. But Ron Woodruff won’t go down without a good fight.
Matthew McConaughey gives a bruising performance, the best he’s ever given. He lost 40 pounds for the role, convincing audiences of his character’s illness. Can he beat out Leo and Bale and Ejiofor for Best Actor? If you had asked me 2 hours ago I would have said no way. Now, considering his S.A.G. and Golden Globe wins? I’m not so sure he won’t. But believe it or not, McConaughey’s costar Jared Leto is even more incredible. As the transgender drug addict interested in helping Ron’s business as he gets help for his own AIDS, Leto gave audiences a reason to smile, laugh, sigh, and cry. It’s definitely a role we will not soon forget, and he proves that he can sing songs like “Kings and Queens” with 30 Seconds to Mars and also be an amazing actor. Some guys have it all (and soon, maybe his first Oscar, for Best Supporting Actor? I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest). Jennifer Garner hasn’t garnered much attention for her role, likely because she was overshadowed with even more outstanding leads, but she likewise deserves credit. As if we needed more characters to love, Garner gives us a sterile lab coat with a real, beating heart.
Like most true stories, “Dallas Buyers Club” has a seemingly quick pace. Working with a true story that lasted…well, let’s just say it lasted longer than anyone expected…“Dallas Buyers Club” (also, I’ll mention now, nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture) is forced to skip lengths of times to tell the story without boring you with the less significant details. While it’s not the best-paced film ever made, it makes tremendous use of its story to keep us captivated the whole time.
If you want mushy-gushy, find something else. “Dallas Buyers Club” tells it like it is. And it’s so much better off for it. Let it surprise you, too.