Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club - Movie Review

Inspired by true events, Dallas Buyers Club tells the story of Ron Woodward who, after being diagnosed with HIV, had to find a way around the system to get the help he needed during a time when no one really understood how to treat this deadly new virus. Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, and Jennifer Garner star in the movie which was directed by Jean-Marc Vallée.

Ron Woodward (McConaughey) lived a wild and free life filled with drugs, alcohol, women, bull riding, and whatever else life happened to put in front of him. After an incident at work lands him in the hospital, the doctors find some abnormalities and decide to run some blood tests which result in the discovery that Mr. Woodard has contracted the HIV virus which will inevitably lead to AIDS. At the time, this newly developing disease was widely viewed as something that only homosexuals could be afflicted with which made this startling discovery even more hard to accept.

When Woodward's own extensive research turned up evidence that the FDA had approved an HIV treatment thought to be toxic so they could get something to the market quickly, he turned to alternative resources even if it meant stepping into the grey areas of the law. This eventually led him to starting the "Dallas Buyers Club" where people could essentially pay dues to join up and they would receive, at no official cost, non-FDA approved, yet highly effective medicine to help with the symptoms of HIV and AIDS. What started out as a fight for survival turned into a battle against the FDA as well as the big pharmaceutical companies whose financial interests they were trying to protect.

I've always been a fan of Matthew McConaughey and particularly enjoy when he has a chance to take on roles like this one as it really allows him to show how gifted he is at his craft. Going all the way back to his feature film debut in Dazed and Confused, I'm not sure if you would find a performance as powerful or as emotionally satisfying as his portrayal of Mr. Woodward. To me, the physical transformation isn't that big of a deal as that's what actors do, but you can tell that he really wanted to give as true and honest of a performance as he possibly could and that dedication really shows up on screen.

In addition to what McConaughey has accomplished, Jared Leto has also been receiving heaps of praise for taking on a very challenging character of Rayon who starts out as a polar opposite to Woodward, but the two eventually become closer than either of them ever thought they might. While I do have an appreciation for what Leto gave to the role, I wasn't as thoroughly impressed as what all the praise and accolades had led me to believe. I would say he was solid at best which is how I would also describe Jennifer Garner who always seems to hit that middling zone of being honest and likable in her roles but never manages to do anything to really stand out and this was definitely the case here as well.

McConaughey's performance alone should be enough to get you into the theater, but you will walk away with a new appreciation for what HIV victims had to go through during its initial outbreak as well as how the government viewed the growing crisis as just another opportunity to make money rather than really trying to help people in need. Don't worry, the movie's not overly preachy, Vallée actually does a really good job of keeping you entertained while also providing an important history lesson. Dallas Buyers Club is a very well made movie with a powerful story that is just as relevant today as it was in the 80's.


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