Matthew McConaughey rivets in Dallas Buyers Club, but he is not the only actor who dropped an astounding amount of weight to capture the ravages of HIV in the true story. Jared Leto is just as impeccable in the role of Rayon, a transgender woman, who is wasting away from what was a gravely mysterious illness when the film takes place in the mid-1980s.
Both deserve Oscar attention, McConaughey for Best Actor and Leto for Best Supporting Actor, and we think they can win. And then there’s the film as a whole… it’s everything you think it is, and so much more.
McConaughey is Ron Woodroof, an electrician by trade and a rodeo rider by passion. It is established he has not exactly been practicing safe sex and, in fact, gives new meaning to the word promiscuous. The audience can tell that he doesn’t look quite right -- he is slightly gaunt and constantly coughing. He collapses one night after some hard partying, and when awakes in a hospital, Woodroof simply figures he had a little too much.
But when two doctors come in wearing surgical masks (one is Dr. Eve Saks, beautifully played by Jennifer Garner), we know something is seriously wrong. They inform him he has HIV. It is also established that during this time, the disease was thought of as something solely contracted by homosexuals -- and Woodroof is not only heterosexual, but downright bigoted when it comes to gay people. There is no worse news he could get, and he reacts accordingly. As seen in the Dallas Buyers Club trailer, he says, “There is nothing out there than can kill Ron Woodroof.”
Then, he gets sicker.
He begins to research and discovers that he is in fact quite ill, and even worse, there is experimental medication out there that has been proven to work at extending the lives of HIV patients beyond the 30 days he’s been told he has to live. It is at this point that Woodruff meets Rayon and a slew of other Dallas residents who don’t have the time for the medical business and government bureaucracy that is preventing them from, honestly, living. Dallas Buyers Club then takes a right turn and becomes a drug-smuggling movie, masked as a heartfelt human compassion story... and it is all brilliant.
In real life, Woodruff traveled the globe securing medication for his fellow Dallas-area HIV patients and, in the process, also became an amateur scientist proving that what they were taking worked. The fact that they are all still standing should speak to that, but the medical and pharmaceutical industries were handcuffed by the FDA.
Jean-Marc Vallee has directed a film that manages to find its way through a rainbow of emotions. There are moments of great sorrow and great triumph and everything in between, including a thriller element.
Leto has taken some years off of acting to rock with 30 Seconds to Mars, and thank goodness he took this role because it is a revelation. He astounds with every frame, and his performance makes you want to jump through the screen and give him a hug. And then there’s McConaughey. To say his performance is a tour-de-force is a gross understatement. He has been on quite a roll of late, and Dallas Buyers Club may seem like his pinnacle. Yet, we feel that he is just getting started.
Our Dallas Buyers Club review can easily state that there are few films that one can see this year that will be this powerful… and inspiring.