Dallas Buyers Club (dir. Jean-Marc Vallée, 2013) – In 1985 Dallas, Ron Woodroof was diagnosed with AIDS. Told that he had just a month to live, he begins to help patients like himself get to the medication they need.
While resonant stories of struggle against odds are aplenty, dedicated leading performances make Dallas Buyers Club a remarkable character study.
Sand in an hourglass pours at a steady speed, but what happens when its glass neck shatters? When reality strikes, there is no escape from the fact that time does not always flow at the pace we desire. Death often stalks with footsteps so soft that we never see it coming. But few people consider the possibility of such an abrupt end.
Believing the worst could never befall himself, Ron Woodroof lives a destructive life of alcohol, drugs, and casual sex. He soon finds out that he has walked into the shadows of Death’s cloak, when a HIV positive diagnosis leaves him with thirty days to live.
During a time when little is known about the disease, Ron finds the diagnosis even harder to accept with his bigotry towards the LGBT community. Should he have given up, there will be one less emotive story to tell. But he chooses to persist against certain death in an inspiring journey, through which he overcomes fate and prejudice.
Dallas Buyers Club is the first film to garner both Academy Awards for male acting since Mystic River, and very well deserves to be. In a performance-driven movie, Matthew McConaughey inhabits the role of Ron Woodroof like not many can. What first catches the eye is his extreme physical differences. What touches the heart is his affecting credibility in his nuanced transformation.
His subtle change starts to show through his unlikely friendship with transgender woman Rayon. The anger surrounding Rayon’s casting choice is not entirely misplaced, as director Jean-Marc Vallée appallingly dismissed the transgender community in an interview. (“Is there any transgender actor? To my knowledge, I don’t know one.”) Even so, Jared Leto delivers a fair and sincere interpretation.
The pair finds commonality in their tenacity in the face of the disease. Their rebellion takes the form of Dallas Buyers Club, a profit-driven business that trades illicit drugs for a monthly fee. Amity gradually softens Ron’s view and the changed man wins us over. From someone whose vocabulary comprises not much past slurs, Ron becomes a bringer of hope in the very community he once hated, but grew to understand.
Focusing on the most compelling two, the script pays little attention to negligible side characters. There remains admirable raw honesty in its rooted portrayal of the events that skips over sentimental melodrama, and daringly sprinkles some humour apt for the dark subject at hand.
Despite alleged inaccuracies, who could deny that many, if not him, act the way his character does? Better seen as fiction, Dallas Buyers Club is a deeply moving survivor story that is well worth watching for the meaningful lessons in accepting the lives of our own, and that of others.