DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (director/writer: Jean-Marc Vallee; screenwriters: Craig Borten/Melisa Wallack; cinematographer: Yves Belanger; editors: John Mac McMurphy/Martin Pensa; cast: Matthew McConaughey (Ron Woodroof), Jennifer Garner (Eve), Denis O’Hare (Dr. Sevard), Steve Zahn (Tucker), Michael O’Neill (Richard Barkley), Dallas Roberts (David Wayne), Griffin Dunne (Dr. Vass), Kevin Rankin (T. J.), Jared Leto (Rayon) ; Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Robbie Brenner/Rachel Winter; Focus Features; 2013)
“A solid biopic, that makes the best of its downer survival story.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
“Dallas Buyers Club” is based on the real-life story of the foul-mouthed Texas redneck, drug user, womanizer, electrician and part-time rodeo rider Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey). He’s a volatile gay-basher who in 1986, after hospitalized for a workplace accident, was diagnosed through blood tests, by two doctors (Denis O’Hare and Jennifer Garner), as HIV-positive and given only 30 days to live. Ron refuses to believe the doctors at Dallas Mercy and from then on devotes his life to finding for himself alternative treatments from non-FDA-approved drugs and supplements, and was able to live for seven years with AIDS by finding his own treatments.
We follow Ron as he illegally buys the expensive AZT, an experimental treatment drug from the Big Pharma company and the only one approved at the time in America. When he can no longer purchase these drugs, Ron treks over the border into Mexico to try other less toxic experimental drugs from an unlicensed American doctor (Griffin Dunne) pushing vitamins and less toxic experimental drugs not on the American market and finds a way to make money out of his illness and stay alive at the same time, as he smuggles these alternative treatments across the border. After meeting, while hospitalized, the HIV patient Rayon (Jared Leto), a transsexual, Ron uses the queen as his liaison to the gay market and is supplied with paying clients interested in these life-saving experimental AIDS treatments. Despite being a dickhead, the nasty rebel character becomes a more sympathetic character after his illness and ends up helping a lot of other people who were in the same boat.
“Dallas Buyers Club” brings back bad memories of a time when the AIDS epidemic swept the country and the disease usually meant a death sentence. Also it was a time when the public was ignorant of the disease and turned their backs on victims and in many cases acts of hostility were directed at them. Ron experiences all this, as his redneck and workplace friends snub him and call him names when they learn he’s HIV positive.
McConaughey gives a brilliant physical performance, looking emaciated as if he really had AIDS, as he’s the flawed character loner warrior helping out the vics of AIDS more than those in the medical establishment caught in bureaucratic entanglements.
It’s written and directed with verve by Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallee (“Los Locos”/”Café de Flore“/”Loser Love”), whose co-writers are Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack. The film only lets us down when the actual story peters out and thereby also comes to an unsatisfying conclusion. Otherwise this is a solid biopic, that makes the best of its downer survival story through good acting and photography.
REVIEWED ON 11/16/2013 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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