I will admit, as of the time I’m writing this review, I haven’t quite seen every film of 2013. But as of this moment, I’ve seen 71 films, and Dallas Buyers Club is the best. Hands down. It’s such a beautiful character arc for McConaughey that you can’t ignore it, and the film itself is just heart wrenching enough, and inspirational enough, to make you stand up and cheer.
McConaughey is tasked with playing Ron Woodruff, a real-life cowboy, who contracts the HIV virus during the peak of the AIDS crisis, and when men like Ron Woodruff thought only gays could get HIV. Ron turns from being a lowlife uneducated hick, into a self-educated dreamer, who believes he has the key to keeping himself alive. After seeing a doctor who gives him 30 days to live, Ron embarks on a journey of self discovery, and learns more about the drug AZT than the doctors are willing to tell him. Ron finds research on other drugs, and alternative medicines that seem to be working, and he heads to Mexico to check them out. Ultimately, Ron decides to get these drugs back across the border. At first, it’s so that he’ll have them, and he can make money off of them. Then it becomes about sticking it to the doctors and “big medicine”, but by the end of the film, Ron is clearly doing it for a more human reason.
A lot of that has to do with Rayon (Jared Leto), a crossdresser that Ron runs into while being treated for HIV. These two shouldn’t get along, and they shouldn’t be friends, but they need each other. Ron needs Rayon to help him distribute his drugs, and Rayon needs the drugs. Later, Ron needs Rayon as the only person he really trusts in the world, and Rayon needs Ron to be his ray of hope. Later, Ron realizes that Rayon is also his compass, and grounds him in this awful world where everyone around him is dying. Jennifer Garner rounds out the lead cast as Ron’s doctor, a compassionate woman who herself is trying to figure out this epidemic, and whether or not AZT is more harmful than its worth.
Garner is fine in her role, but Leto and McConaughey shine. Both men lost an absolutely staggering amount of weight for their roles. They both embody the “unhealthy dying” look perfectly. Both men are completely transformative in their roles. This film was the opportunity of a lifetime for them, and they each succeed in giving an honest piece of themselves to the story. They are both wasting away on camera right in front of you, getting thinner and thinner as the film shoots. Leto as Rayon has some truly heartbreaking moments, one especially big one where he has to tell his father that he is dying of AIDS. There are Oscar moments riddled throughout. Both men have never been nominated, and I don’t want to be in a world where they aren’t nominated here for these performances.
I thought Dallas Buyers Club was the perfect amount of “activist” film mixed with “tragedy” mixed with “stunning character piece”. It tries to be everything it can be, and actually succeeds, which is a rare feat for a film. This is a must-watch film for anyone who just likes to see a damn good movie.
FINAL GRADE: A
STARRING: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Denis O’Hare, Steve Zahn, Kevin Rankin, Dallas Roberts.
WRITTEN BY: Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
DIRECTED BY: Jean-Marc Vallee