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Dallas Buyers Club’s success comes from being tasked with depicting such a controversial topic as HIV/AIDS, and utilizing its intentions incredibly well. You don’t see very many Hollywood films that touch on this subject matter. Not that there shouldn’t be any, but simply because you have to figure out the right direction to take a feature film in which deals with any major diseases. Dallas Buyers Club strikes you with a sense of realism, which is one of the reasons why it’s so effective.
There has been a lot of well-deserved, promising awards buzz attached to Jean-Marc Vallée’s Dallas Buyers Club this year. Earning six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Matthew McConaughey, and Best Supporting Actor for Jared Leto, this is clearly one of most talked-about films of the season.
The story is based on the true story of Ron Woodroof (McConaughey), an electrician and rodeo hustler who is diagnosed with AIDS in 1985. Initially given 30 days to live, he figures out that the drugs given to him at the hospital are harming him further. After the month has passed, he decides to drive from Dallas to Mexico in order to find drugs that haven’t been approved by the U.S., and smuggles them back into the States in order to sell to patients who also need the proper medication. Along the way, Ron meets an HIV-positive transvestite named Rayon (Leto), and they end up becoming unlikely business partners. With the FDA on his tail, Ron must do whatever is necessary to keep his customers alive, as well as himself.
This is a film that had been proposed back in the mid-90’s, but finally found its footing when McConaughey and Vallée signed on for it. The screenplay is really fantastic and makes a great effort.
What I think struck me most about this movie was Woodroof’s denial when he is first diagnosed with AIDS, claiming that his tests must have been wrong, saying he wasn’t a “faggot”. Keep in mind that when AIDS first started spreading, people thought that it was only acquired between homosexuals, so that is one of the more realistic and straight-forward aspects of the movie.
McConaughey gives a tremendous leading performance, showing a range of emotions throughout the film while still managing to keep his cool and make the best of his situation. His dialogue was presented almost flawlessly, especially interacting with other characters. Jared Leto’s performance as Rayon is one of the more memorable roles of this year. He really gives an alluring, captivating performance, but at the same time cracks some jokes which adds a bit of humor to the film. Again, that seems to play into the whole idea of taking a difficult subject to portray on-screen and to execute it so perfectly.
Both McConaughey and Leto are deserving for Best Lead & Supporting Actor, by far. In fact, one of the best scenes in the film is between Woodroof and Rayon, and they finally realize just how important they have been to each other’s journey to stay alive up until that point.
What Doesn’t Work?
Overall, fantastic film, and definitely one of the top movies of the 2014 Awards season. It achieves a lot in just under 2 hours, and you should definitely see Dallas Buyers Club if you get the chance.
Reel Rating: 8/10
Written by Josh Sazin on January 28th, 2014