Dallas Buyers Club is intensely emotional and delivers some of the most harrowing performances of the year. Matthew McConaughey continues his career resurgence out of the circle of rom-com hell he was in and mesmerizes with his lived in portrayal of a hard living good ole boy that contracts HIV in the 1980’s. McConaughey dedicates himself to the role with reckless abandon and looks every bit the part of a man on the brink of death. He disappears so completely into the character that any movie star vanity vanishes and all that’s left is a deeply flawed man trying to survive in a world that doesn’t care about him. This is an outsiders tale and gives a voice to those society would rather leave behind.
McConaughey stars as Ron Woodruff, a Texas electrician/rodeo rider who is immersed in a world of drugs and sex and only thinks of AIDS as, “that faggot disease.” He is well liked if not exactly respected and is surrounded by like-minded individuals. This is a culture that does not welcome differences nor change and any outliers will be met with violence and ridicule. A workplace accident results in Woodruff getting a blood test that comes back HIV positive. There is of course a stage of denial then he starts to accept and research. What follows is the story of a man clinging onto hope after he has been cast aside and left to rot with the riff-raff he so vehemently opposed. Woodruff begins to realize that the FDA may not be acting in the best interests of the patients and begins scheming with foreign medicines to distribute drugs to AIDS patients. His partner in the newly minted “Dallas Buyers Club” is Rayon, a transsexual who gives him unexplored access to the gay community. A timid friendship is formed between them as both struggle with holding onto whatever health they can get amid a sea of red tape and FDA regulations that could keep possible medications from them. Health is a rich man’s game.
Jared Leto has long fascinated with his choice in roles and is remarkably picky. As the lead singer of the highly successful rock band 30 Seconds to Mars he has the luxury of only picking roles that speak to him. Leto clearly believed in telling the story of Rayon and is alternately beautiful and heartbreaking in every scene. There are many moments involving Rayon that will stay with me forever. It is a tragic character and Leto makes it memorable in every frame.
Dallas Buyers Club affected me deeply. Those of us that have witnessed someone fade both emotionally and physically from a fatal illness will recognize the heartbreak surrounding these characters. This is more than an AIDS story. This is a story about those who are told that there is no hope. Even more so, this is a story of those that are struggling to live in a society that has written them off as dead. Their story deserves to be told and Dallas Buyers Club does that job admirably.