If you haven’t seen Dallas Buyers Club already, go see it. To see two actors, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, become so apart of their characters is a real treat. Their performances alone are worth the cost of admission and your time. Dallas Buyers Club is based off of a true story and the real Ron Woodworth, a womanizin’, bull ridin’, homosexual hatin’ redneck cowboy who learns that he only has 30 days left to live due to the HIV/AIDS virus. Such emotional subject matter can make for a preachy film if you’re not careful but Leto and McConaughey are so invested in their characters that you forget you are watching a movie. It becomes real and the movie succeeds in pulling a variety of emotions from you without being forceful about it.
Ron Woodroof was a resident of Dallas, Texas who took pride in being just a regular All-American man. When he gets the news that he is dying from HIV/AIDS, he is forced to reconsider his personal values in order to have a chance of survival. A new drug called AZT has been approved to start trials in patients who have HIV and at a time when there weren’t a lot of choices for these patients, AZT looked like the best option. Woodroof becomes invested in trying to get his hands on the drug but eventually comes to the realization that it does more harm than good in patients. Woodroof and his unlikely business partner, a transsexual named Rayon, team up to shine some light on alternative options for people suffering from HIV/AIDS in the 1980’s and ultimately bring hope to a community that has almost none.
Both McConaughey and Leto deserve recognition for not just the physical devotion (both lost significant amounts of weight for their roles) to their characters but the mental devotion as well. We have seen McConaughey as the redneck type before but he brings an amazing amount of emotion to his character that never feels phony. This was definitely his best role to date in my opinion and showed that he has an amazing amount of range as an actor. Even more so, Leto shows that his acting abilities are definitely up to par even after a four year hiatus from movies. His portrayal of Rayon is spot on and never once during the film do you question Leto’s authenticity. He portrays Rayon with the utmost respect towards transsexuals/transgenders and I never believed him to be anything else than the vibrant, feminine, and lovely Rayon. Dallas Buyers Club was one of those films that has been trying to be made for decades now, going through a variety of director and actor duos. Let me just say that I am glad it was made at this time with these actors and director Jean-Marc Vallée. I couldn’t imagine Woodroof or Rayon being played by anyone, they were just that good.
I give significant praise to the two leading actors because that is what really made Dallas Buyers Club so memorable for me. If those two hadn’t done such an amazing job, the tiny flaws of the film might actually stand out. The script does suffer some minor faults that would bug me if I was being really nitpicky such as the fact that Woodworth seems to seamlessly transition from a “faggot” fearing homophobe into an accepting and caring guy all of the sudden. I guess under such circumstances where one only has a month left to live, one might reevaluate their own morals but the movie fails to explain at all “why” Woodworth suddenly changed. Once again I’m being nitpicky but the movie could have also gone without a few scenes in which Woodroof and Jennifer Garner’s character, a doctor of many HIV/AIDS patients, share a few “heartwarming” moments. In fact, Garner’s character doesn’t really serve any significant purpose for a majority of the movie and really just seems like she is just serving as a copy of Garner’s usual typecast roles(You all know what I’m talking about) in order to provide for some emotional moments between her and Ron. But this is most at the fault of the script and not a bash against her performance of the role in any way.
All in all, Dallas Buyers does a good job of keeping focused on the story of this one man and at the same time giving us an idea of the bigger picture of what was going on at that time without coming off as disorienting or muddling either of those focuses. McConaughey’s performance is honest and real and Woodroof is neither portrayed as a total sinner or a saint, just simply a man searching for options. Leto’s performance, I would argue, makes the movie. He steals the spotlight every time he is on screen and his dedication to the role is obvious. These performances along with the directing decisions of Vallée pull all sorts of emotions without noticeably trying to and engross you in the story. Of course, with its subject matter, it’s not an easy film to watch but as you watch you get the sense that it is truly an important contribution to cinema. Perhaps what makes it feel like that is the simple fact that Dallas Buyers Club feels so real. Of course this film was motivated off of real events but rarely does a film capture the true reality so brilliantly. Dallas Buyers makes us acknowledge that this is not fiction; these people are real, these stories are real, and they are most definitely worth watching.