Dallas Buyers Club

I’ve never been a fan of Matthew ‘I can’t wait to get my kit off in front of the cameras’ McConaughey but since I saw him in Mud last year, I’ve been looking forward to finding out if he really can act or if Mud was just a fluke.  Do you know what?  I think he actually, really can act.

So by now you’ll probably know all about DBC even if you haven’t seen it yet.  McConaughey and Jared Leto both won Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards for best actor/supporting actor, respectively and they’re both Oscar contenders.  The film itself is up for the best picture Oscar, too.

A lot of the buzz is around McConaughey’s appearance – the usually buff rom-com star has dropped several stone to play Ron Woodruff, in this based-on-a-true-story-story of an electrician and rodeo rider who in his spare time was an awful racist, homophobe, womanizer and general all-round redneck douche bag.  Seriously, he’s not a likeable character.  Early on in the film Ron has an accident at work which leads to some medical tests which reveal that he is HIV positive.

This is all happening in 1985 when treatment was in its infancy, that is to say, approved drugs were a long way off.  Further off than Ron’s prognosis allowed.  He takes matters into his own hands, using legal loop-holes to get the best (experimental and unapproved and therefore legally questionable) treatments which he then uses and sells to others via the Dallas Buyers Club of the title.

One of the key themes of DBC and one of the most interesting elements, is Ron’s own prejudices against HIV and AIDS sufferers, and the gay community who make up a fair proportion of the other patients we see here.  People he’s contemptuous of, to say the least.  These prejudices are shared by his redneck buddies and that makes it impossible to maintain his old way of life.  It’s the sense of isolation this causes that leads him to Rayon (Leto) a transvestite AIDS patient with a heat of gold.

So, Ron ‘goes on an emotional journey’ (yeah, I know, puke), and we see that he’s become a different person by the end of the film than he was at the beginning, he forms new relationships with people he previously wouldn’t have pissed on if they were on fire.  His relationship with Rayon is touching, they act more like an old married couple than business partners and some of these scenes are genuinely moving.

For all the emotions, relationships and personal struggles, capitalism features large.  Ron’s survival instincts are strong and his determination to find effective treatments are in no way altruistic.  Not only does he want to find a way of prolonging his own life, and who can blame him, but there’s also money to be made.  The treatments he promotes cost his clients $400 a month (almost $900 in today’s money).  I don’t know anyone who has a spare grand a month burning a whole in their back pocket, but we’re lucky enough to have the NHS here, so paying for healthcare is kind of a weird prospect.  I imagine we probably think about it differently than our American cousins.

Anyway, I feel I’ve gone on too long so in conclusion, Dallas Buyers Club isn’t perfect.  The ending felt somewhat rushed, I wanted to know more about what happened there, and I did struggle to follow the timeline of events which was a minor annoyance.  DBC is easily worth two hours of anyone’s time, though.  Leto is an amiable and solid co-star, not to mention a striking woman, but it’s McConaughey who steals the show.  He gives an outstanding (if sometimes irritatingly mumbly) performance as Woodruff, and his extreme weight loss only serves to heighten the character’s plight.

Score: 7/10

8 responses to “Dallas Buyers Club

  1. I saw this movie recently as well, and I thought that both leads gave fantastic performances — esp. Leto.

  2. Good review Laura. Wasn’t a perfect movie, but McConaughey and Leto put their hearts and souls into it and definitely make it worth watching. That is, if only for them, because of how great they are, and can be here.

    • Thank you kindly! It is certainly a flawed film, and I’m not sure I’ll feel the need to see it again any time soon but it’s definitely worth seeing once. If only for McConaughey and Leto, as you say.

  3. Great review! Although the narrative soul-searching stuff was pretty simple for such an awards-laden film, i think it all kind of worked. The simplicity sort of mirrored Ron’s will to survive. Loved McConaughey and Leto!

    • Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment. I agree, but to be honest after seeing the utter mess that is American Hustle, I’m not sure I hold the Oscars in such high esteem these days!

  4. Glad you enjoyed the film! As an American, I definitely interpreted it a little differently since I understand that getting access to healthcare can a nightmare. Namely, I thought McConaughey’s character started out as more capitalist, but eventually at the end he just started giving away the drugs to those who really needed them, so I ended up interpreting it as a somewhat anti-capitalist film (thought that may be a little strong). And his battle against the FDA was awesome to watch. I thought the film was as much about one nasty guy’s moral evolution as it was about battling government conspiracy. Heh. I guess I can see how the “battle” elements would seem tepid to someone outside the U.S., though!

  5. Great review! I liked this film quite a lot (a little more than you did). I know – MM CAN act. Wow. He just needed to get away from the likes of Kate Hudson. : )

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