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Dallas Buyers Club - Movie Review

5 stars

Matthew McConaughey is on a roll. A career that just a few years ago seemed headed towards irrelevance with a run of really bad romantic comedies, has since about-faced and now appears to be culminating with his Oscar-worthy turn in Dallas Buyers Club. And his road from Ghosts of Girlfriends Past to Oscar mention hasn’t been paved with cream puff roles either. In fact, the more complex, multi-faceted, twisted, and/or sexually perverted the character he’s asked to play, the more the actor shines. Whether a cock-sure strip club owner in Magic Mike, a twisted hit man in Killer Joe, or a charismatic drifter in Mud, McConaughey makes them all look so easy.

Next role up is Ron Woodroof, a rough, tough, hard-drinking, heterosexual, womanizing electrician and Texas rodeo cowboy who, in 1985, is blindsided by a diagnosis of H.I.V. infection, the virus that causes AIDS. Given just 30 days to live, Ron fights through the initial reactions of denial and anger to eventually accept the diagnosis but not the death sentence that comes with it.

At the time, little was known about AIDS and government efforts weren’t particularly being expedited due to the disease’s association with the gay community. So Ron soon hits the library with the same fervor he formerly expended on booze, drugs, and women to educate himself about this dangerous new incurable disease sweeping through the gay community.

Meanwhile, Ron is ostracized by his friends and co-workers who pelt him with the same ridicule and caustic comments he once favored. His research turning up a lack of approved treatments and medications in the U.S., Ron eventually heads to Mexico where he learns of some alternative treatments that he begins smuggling into the U.S., challenging the medical and scientific communities.

Since selling non-approved medicines and supplements as a treatment for AIDS would be an outright affront to both the DEA and FDA, Ron establishes a buyers club whereby he would “give” the drugs to club members who pay a $400 monthly membership fee. Thus, the Dallas Buyers Club is born.

An outsider to the gay community, Ron befriends an unlikely ally in fellow AIDS patient Rayon (Jared Leto), a transsexual who enjoys Ron’s same zest for life. Together, Ron and Rayon run the buyers club until it eventually gets the attention of the IRS, FDA, and DEA, who all come knocking to shut down the gray-market operation.

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée from a script by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, Dallas Buyers Club is a fascinating story of transformation. The characters, the actors, and even the story itself go through a wonderful evolution that can teach us all about what real friendship is and what it means.

Mirroring the story’s transformation, McConaughey’s charismatic Ron is a fascinating character as he evolves from being extremely self-absorbed and bigoted, to fighting for survival, then ends up unwittingly at the forefront of AIDS research and treatment.  He’s gone from two-bit shit kicker to scientist to entrepreneur, right before our eyes.

Just as mesmerizing is the transformation the actors undergo as they melt into the skins of their characters. McConaughey is nothing short of brilliant here with what might be his best to date. But going toe-to-toe with him is Leto who shows ferocious talent as Ron’s unlikely side-kick Rayon. Ultimately, the heart of the movie is in the relationship Ron and Rayon share, and their rich chemistry is reminiscent of that between Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in 1969’s dall. But credit Vallée with drawing out what are certainly award-worthy performances from his leads.[/tab]

[tab title="Film Details"]

Dallas Buyers Club - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, nudity and drug use.
117 mins
: Jean-Marc Vallée
: Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto
: Drama
Dare to Live
Memorable Movie Quote: "Screw the FDA! I'm going to be DOA."
Focus Features
Release Date:
November 15, 2013
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.

Synopsis: Matthew McConaughey stars in Dallas Buyers Club as real-life Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof, whose free-wheeling life was overturned in 1985 when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. These were the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and the U.S. was divided over how to combat the virus. Ron, now shunned and ostracized by many of his old friends, and bereft of government-approved effective medicines, decided to take matters in his own hands, tracking down alternative treatments from all over the world by means both legal and illegal. Bypassing the establishment, the entrepreneurial Woodroof joined forces with an unlikely band of renegades and outcasts - who he once would have shunned - and established a hugely successful “buyers’ club.” Their shared struggle for dignity and acceptance is a uniquely American story of the transformative power of resilience.[/tab]

[tab title="Blu-ray Review"]

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