Why Dallas Buyers Club is Awesome

Truly the performance of Matthew McConaughey’s career

Dallas Buyers Club has a long history, with the script floating around Hollywood for well over 15 years. In the 90’s, Dennis Hopper was in talks to direct Woody Harrelson as Ron Woodruff, but no financial backing could be secured. There have also been talks of Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling trying to get the film off the ground with different directors, none of which materialised. It wasn’t until Matthew McConaughey came along and helped finance it that it eventually scraped up enough money to be made - but even then it was on a tiny budget of $5,500,000; it has since gone on to gross over $20 million in the US as of the end of January.

The film has been hailed a critical success and has been nominated for countless awards, including 6 Academy Award nominations; Best Motion Picture, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for Matthew McConaughey, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for Jared Leto, Best Editing, Best Make-Up and Hairstyling and Best Original Screenplay. Jared Leto won the Best Supporting Actor award at both the Golden Globes and the SAG awards. Matthew McConaughey has won the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award and almost every Critic’s society award for Best Actor for his performance. He is also the front runner for winning the Academy Award this year. Not bad for a little film that couldn’t get made.

Dallas Buyers Club is the true story of Ron Woodruff, an electrician and all round hustler who was diagnosed with AIDs in 1985. This was a time when people were terrified of the disease, as it was relatively new, seemed to be everywhere, nobody knew anything about it, people were dying and all that was certain at the time was that there was no cure. Ron Woodruff was given 30 days to live but through sheer will power and desire to live he proved the experts wrong and lived another seven years. It was what he did in the meantime, however, that makes his story so worth telling.

In the utter desperation to save himself - and being a self-important and rather horrible guy - he took matters into his own hands and went looking for drugs that could save him whether they were approved by the FDA or not. When he found these drugs he set up the eponymous Dallas Buyers Club, in which people with HIV could pay to become members for $400 a month and be treated with all the drugs they would need. At the beginning, it is nothing but profit and lining his own pockets that interest him, but in time, through dealing with the disease, he begins to care a little more about welfare and a little less about money….Though only a little.

Matthew McConaughey is truly in the greatest role of his career in Dallas, and he knows it. Ron Woodruff is a very unlikeable characterwith very few nice qualities; he is a homophobic, a drug and sex addict, who cares very little about anything and can swear like a sailor – in other words, this is miles away from anything that McConaughey has ever attempted before. Here’s the thing, though: McConaughey’s career has been on the rise for the past 2 years. Gone are the chick flick romances of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003) and Fools Gold (2008)and instead we have been treated to the likes of Killer Joe (2011), Magic Mike (2012) and Mud (2012) - even his cameos and bit parts have been in another league (see The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) for a fantastic cameo). So really, this should come as no surprise to us; McConaughey is in his prime and we have a front seat to see him at his absolute best. What did surprise was the lengths he would go to to make this role believable - he lost 47 pounds to play Woodruff and had many in the media concerned for his health until it was revealed it was for a film role.


Jennifer Garner has a small but brilliant role as a doctor doubting her profession

What makes this film so remarkable is that Woodruff was a real man; what the character goes through in the film is what happened to him. Despite being an unlikeable character, you can’t help but root for Woodruff as his magnetism and energy are spellbinding, and his desire to fight is encouraging to watch. What I found most affecting was his relationship with other characters; Jennifer Garner is his doctor, and he charms her as well as the audience with his humour and survival. Garner’s Eve is practical, but has not lost all of her emotion like her boss and others around her. Through Ron she begins to doubt what the rest of her peers are prescribing and she gives the emotional support Ron needs and supports his efforts without sacrificing her job.

The best chemistry, however, is between Ron and Rayon, a cross-dressing homosexual who Ron meets in the hospital, and eventually becomes his partner. This was Jared Leto’s first film in 5 years and is an amazing comeback. He lost 30 pounds for the role and looks hauntingly skeletal; his Rayon starts the film with light humour and an almost relaxed attitude to his predicament, but as time passes, he begins to increasingly abuse drugs knowing he is approaching death at an alarming speed. He doesn’t want to die, and to watch him suffer is one of the most heart-breaking moments surpassed only by Woodruff’s reactions to his inevitable passing, as their relationship has improved to a mutual respect and understanding over time.


Leto gives a stunning performance as Rayon, his first role in 5 years

Dallas Buyers Club is no big blockbuster movie and there is no hiding the fact in the filming; there is no gloss and there is something raw about it. You are in the film, in the moment, with the characters, and the technique - though used for affordability - also bring a realism to the film.  Dallas gives an insight into a time of chaos in the medical world, and it displays all the faults of the system. Doctors who fail to see their patients basic needs and desires, medical companies in it only for the money, and the harsh reality that patients welfare is low on the list of concerns from all those who are supposed to be there to help.

This is a very affecting film, all the more so for its factual story. Films about Aids are always going to tick award committee’s boxes, but besides that there is the important fact that in most cases HIV is still looked upon with a certain fear. It is films like Dallas Buyers Club that boldly say “No we will not brush it under the carpet” that are vital to teaching people to change their attitudes.

Final Score: 9/10

This has been Mary for The Awesome Update.

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