Movie Review: Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
117 minutes
Rated – R
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Let, Jennifer Garner


Grade: B+

Earlier this year I watched Matthew McConaughey in Mud and was thoroughly impressed by his performance as the mysterious man who befriended a pair of boys, telling them his story about the woman he loves and why he can’t be seen in public. While he played a supporting character, it was better than his performance in Magic Mike, though some would argue with me on that. But here in Dallas Buyers Club, he completely owns the movie from start to finish.

The first thing you notice is McConaughey’s physical state. He lost around 40 pounds for the role and he’s never looked worse (Christian Bale in The Machinist immediately came to mind). But once you get used to his loose skin and skelatal appearance, you dive right into his character Ron Woodroof. He’s a care-free and reckless Texan who can’t get enough of his girls, alcohol and drugs. It’s 1985 when his doctors tell him he’s diagnosed with HIV. Woodroof only knows one thing about the virus, that it’s usually something only homosexuals get, that is until further research has him finally understanding his situation clearer.

Given only 30 days to live, Woodroof desperately makes a deal to obtain a supply of AZT during its trial period by the FDA, but when his conditions worsen he visits a physician in Mexico who gives him vitamins and other pills to boost his immune system. What felt like a miracle, Woodruff’s health is stabilized, even though the medication he’s taking isn’t FDA approved. This presents the main conflict of the film involving drug companies holding hands with the FDA, looking for a sizeable profit from those with deep pockets. Woodroof provided an alternate option, the Dallas Buyers Club, where he sold drugs to patients for a $400 enrollment fee (which was much cheaper than the thousands of dollars for AZT).

Opposite of McConaughey’s Woodruff is Jared Leto’s Rayon, a transsexual AIDS patient who teams up with Woodruff to form the Dallas Buyers Club. Leto’s performance is worth mentioning because he, too, transformed himself physically to really make him stand out in the film. Leto’s playful and flamboyant Rayon is the perfect balancing factor to McConaughey’s rough and tough Woodruff. But as Woodruff understands his predicament, he begins to understand Rayon and in turn the audience opens up to the both of them and their partnership.

It’s a straight-forward and simple plot, but Dallas Buyers Club does many things right without pulling back too many punches. The film has a slightly out-of-place Jennifer Garner as a doctor who befriends Woodruff and represents the professional who finds herself on the wrong side of the line. Things become a bit hokey between her and Woodruff, but she serves her purpose in the end. Despite a few flaws, Dallas Buyers Club belongs to Matthew McConaughey in arguably his best performance in his career. His Woodruff is the life and the soul of the film and he rides this movie like a bull through the rough path of an AIDS patient until the very last scene.


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