Title: Dallas Buyers Club
Directed By: Jean-Marc Vallee
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Steve Zahn, Dallas Roberts, Denis O’Hare
“Dallas Buyers Club” is loaded with quality work, but it’s Matthew McConaughey’s performance that elevates those elements to solidify the film as an exceptional experience.
Inspired by true events, “Dallas Buyers Club” features Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, a freewheeling Texan working as an electrician and rodeo cowboy until he’s diagnosed as H.I.V. positive and informed that he’s got just 30 days to live. Stubborn and determined, Ron defies his doctors’ assessments and looks into treatment options of his own. After discovering there are effective alternatives and that the only thing keeping them from the ailing is US medication regulations, Ron takes it upon himself to bring them into the country and then distribute them through a “buyers club.”
“Dallas Buyers Club” has two powerhouse components that unite to deliver explosive results – the subject matter and Matthew McConaughey. Even though the tragic effects of HIV and AIDS are very familiar, Ron offers a rousing and disturbing fresh perspective. Not only is the process of awarding a drug government approval disconcerting, but so are certain motivations involved, as they make better options inaccessible. Whether HIV/AIDS has hit close to home or not, it’s a widely relatable, nightmarish scenario. But what really lets “Dallas Buyers Club” dig especially deep is the fact that this issue is then honed down and humanized by a wildly successful main character.
Ron is a fascinating guy to begin with, but after his diagnosis he experiences a massive character arc. At the start, he comes across as a bit of a jerk. He’s brash and has a tendency to get himself into quite a bit of trouble, which is a rather unusual setup for such a situation. Rather than introduce the lead as a likeable guy who’s hit with an unimaginable tragedy to produce the maximum emotional response, this presentation of the character takes all of the pity out of the equation and puts the focus on the wider issue. The more information the viewer gains, the more Ron comes into focus and that’s when you finally start to get glimpses of his highly admirable tenacity.
McConaughey is nearly unrecognizable in the role, and not just because he lost a significant amount of weight. If you want a prime example of an actor losing himself in a character, this is it. Ron’s got a big mouth and certainly has a way with words, but it’s the moments in between when you can so clearly see the wheels in his head turning as he plots his next move that McConaughey excels. Ron is as stubborn as they come and has a tendency to jump into action at the drop of a hat, but even then, his decisions are always justified because of McConaughey’s presentation of Ron as an eccentric man, but also one that deeply values being well informed.
McConaughey absolutely runs away with this movie, but the only person to claim a little bit of his spotlight is Jared Leto as transsexual AIDS patient, Rayon. Leto is a big winner the moment he steps on screen thanks to an impeccably written and performed moment with McConaughey. Ron is somewhat homophobic and even though Rayon is as kind and caring as they come, and genuinely wants to push beyond Ron’s prejudice, it’s never to the point of forgoing what makes Rayon who she is. As a result, we get this highly unique play of power and emotion between the two that makes for both an interesting business scenario and engaging friendship. Jennifer Garner steps in as Ron’s doctor, Eve, but while she does deliver a sufficient performance, the character merely functions as a means to push McConaughey’s character forward.
“Dallas Buyers Club’s” sole shortfall is its pacing. It’s a riveting watch and has no trouble carrying the two-hour running time, but there are a few emotional troughs and scenes that end abruptly, both of which run the risk of taking the viewer out of the film. Fortunately, with a man like McConaughey in the lead, there’s only so long the effects of such a shortcoming can last. For the most part, it’s impossible not to rally behind Ron, feel his pain, revel in his triumphs, and walk out feeling both informed and fulfilled.