As you look throughout history, the “crazy” people seem to be the ones who set out to change the world for the better. Most thoughts would gravitate towards the “crazy” smart people who tried to change our world for the better, but there are also the unorthodox “crazies” who try to change things in a different manner. From a distance, it’s easy to brush their motives off and jump to conclusions. When you take a closer look at what those people stood for, it becomes easier to see through their eyes and support what they believed in; even if the person was a terrible one.
Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) resembled every stereotype that you can conjure up when you think about Texans. Between his drinking and drug addictions, he often spouted off racist and homophobic comments about the people he saw around him. With the AIDS epidemic getting recognition, Ron believed the disease to be a “fag” disease that was caused by engaging in “homo” activities. To his surprise, after being treated for a work-related incident, Ron is told that his blood contained traces of HIV and that he has about 30 days left to live. While at first he was in denial and baffled by this “mix-up”, Ron notices his physical state weakening and must find something to keep him alive.
Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), the woman caring for Ron, mentions AZT, a drug to combat HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, she can’t get Ron any, but advises that he goes to meetings for people living with the disease. It’s at that meeting where Ron meets Rayon (Jared Leto), a transgender with quite the attitude. As Ron paid for AZT on the side, he came to discover that the drug worsened the patient’s condition. When told that there are unapproved drugs down in Mexico that can help his fight, Ron heads down for a couple of months and finds his health increasing. Ron manages to bring the drugs back into the United States and decides to make money by selling the drugs to the other HIV/AIDS patients. Reluctantly (at first) partnered with Rayon, Ron starts the Dallas Buyers Club, selling memberships to patients seeking help. The story follows Ron’s progression with accepting his condition and those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, as well as his fight against the government that was trying to shut his organization down, so as to continue their profit from the AZT that was actually killing patients.
I apologize for the long plot description, but this is a film that matters. I tried to sum up the story as best I could, while also pointing out the lengths that this man went to, in order to save himself and others. After viewing the film, I sat and thought about Ron Woodroof for a long time. He’s the kind of character that you start out hating, but grow to love as he grows too. The fact that this film is based on a true story is most astounding. There are terrible truths that this film exemplifies and it does a wonderful job of telling a story that not many people know. I was deeply affected by this film and to say that it’s amazing is a severe understatement.
You can’t talk about this film without talking about its leading men. Matthew McConaughey is having the best year of his life. In the last year, he’s churned out three of his best performances and there’s no question that he’s going to get an Oscar nomination. His portrayal of Woodroof took him to some of the darkest recesses of man who I’ve ever seen. McConaughey brought his weight down to 120 lbs and became this homophobic monster, who was unwilling to believe that he could be infected with HIV/AIDS. His transformation from a disgusting human being, to a caring and concerned man is stupendous. To see a man go from shouting slurs at others with the diseases, to risking his life to help cure them, will bring tears to your eyes. Ron Woodroof saw the damage that the government backed AZT was doing and sought to save the lives of thousands. Ron Woodroof may have been one crazy man, but what he stood for and how he approached saving lives was not.
Delivering his best performance and one of the most risky performances of the year, is Jared Leto. The 30 Seconds to Mars front-man has acted in such films as Requiem for a Dream, American Psycho, & Fight Club, and now has an Oscar-worthy performance to his name. His portrayal of Rayon is touching and tear-inducing, as we watch her struggle with AIDS and a drug addiction. Rayon is responsible for helping Ron see that those with AIDS and different sexual preferences are no different from anyone else. Rayon chooses to live her life as a woman and she doesn’t care what people think about her. Leto does an amazing job at emulating Rayon’s outlook on life and completely nails her sassy and flirty attitude. His ability to convey emotions with his eyes and use his body to respond to nasty comments will make your heart ache. His performance is one that will stick with anyone who watches the film and is will be one that goes down in history as one of the riskiest performances that more than paid off.
More than it’s demonstration of how members of the LGBT community are treated, Dallas Buyers Club also offer up a lot about how people change when they learn something unsettling about someone they know. Ron’s friends immediately ostracize him and treat him in the worst possible ways that went as far as covering his house with the word “faggot”. Ron is heartbroken, alone, and left yearning for his old life back. It’s not until he realizes that he is still the same person, that he realizes that people with the disease are no different. The way that the support groups welcomed him and showed him that they’re all human, really helped Ron with his struggles and prompted him to help those that helped him.
Quite possibly the most upsetting thing that’s revealed in this film, is the fact that the US Government was continuing to treat HIV/AIDS patients with a drug that would end up killing them. In a time where the AIDS epidemic was a focal point in politics, the quickest solution would prompt approval ratings to soar and dispel the discussions about what to do about “the gays”. Even with data showing the deterioration of the patient’s conditions, scientists and politicians kept spoon-feeding the drug. When Woodroof presented unapproved drugs that only showed positive effects, he was quickly dismissed and his drugs were seized. The government’s reluctance to change, in order to keep a profit, is sickening and it’s amazing that Ron Woodroof managed to help so many people for so long.
Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto stick out like a sore thumb in this film. They both deliver career best performances that have already garnered lots of attention, and will most likely earn them both Oscar nominations. The story that they help tell is one of sorrow, perseverance, and life changing. There were many instances in which I cried happy and sad tears in this film, and I think that’s a really good sign. I only wish that I could write more about this film without losing the attention of my audience (if you’re still there)… So, my request of you all is to find your nearest theater and go see Dallas Buyers Club as soon as you can!
Dallas Buyers Club Trailer