The 2013 film Dallas Buyer’s Club opened on November 1, but unfortunately not where I happen to live. Only three theatres, two Regal and one AMC, finally showed this limited released movie this past weekend. To this reviewer, it was worth the wait. The performances by the two lead actors were marvelous and if for nothing else, those performances are worth the price of admission. The subject matter is one that has not been seeing on the screen in some time or done so well. Directed well by Jean-Marc Vallee, it stars Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, Jared Leto as Rayon, Jennifer Garner as Dr. Saks, and Steve Zahn as Tucker (Woodroof close friend). The film is based on Ron Woodroof, who was the subject of a 1992 article in The Dallas Morning News, written by Bill Minutaglio and is a close adaptation from the article.
The film deals with Woodroof, who is diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 and told that he has 30 days to live. He is a drug addict and homophobic, contracting the virus by having unprotected sex with a female partner. Taking the approved FDA drug AZT, which is the only legally available drug in America, brings him very close to dying because the drug is very toxic and lethal. In order to keep himself alive, he proceeds to start to smuggle anti-viral medications from all over the globe and sell them to those suffering from HIV/AIDS. As soon as he does this, many patients leave the clinical trials for AZT and go to him for his treatment. These drugs are unapproved and not available in the U.S. and a local Texas doctor notifies the FDA, which try to stop him, using any federal tool they can. Ron is arrested, sued, and audited, but he continues. With help of his doctor, Eve Saks, and Rayon, a transsexual drug addict he has befriended, Ron starts the Dallas Buyer’s Club, which happened to be one of many that were formed in America at the time. They allow their paying members ($400 a month) to an alternative choice of treatments. The FDA and the pharmaceutical companies unhappy with the growing number of clubs, go after Ron and try to curb the club from helping those with AIDS achieve some health.
The film tries to deal with an issue which involves the belief that many have that the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies work together to make money. If this is true, it may have caused many at the time to not receive proper treatment due to the regulations and/or insufficient funds. Using the right drugs or combination of drugs can help human beings to stay alive. I have a friend who was on the clinical trials and was not doing well. I have to assume that he contacted a club in the New York area and received the right combination to help him survive. And survive he did…got married, had children and lived his life. The topic of this film uses this particular story to tell about a broken medical system and it fits with what is going on in the country today with the healthcare system.
The film only deals with the story about Ron Woodroof and the people in his life during the time he tried to stay alive and unfortunately, it does not even reference who was the President (Reagan) and uses only a few scenes about the activists that Woodroof ignores. But it does bring to light the medical profession and government’s lack of compassion for those who are terminally ill.
Both McConaughey’s and Leto’s appearances are almost hard to recognize since they both are, in the film, dramatically thin…actually, downright skinny and emaciated. Both lost massive amounts of weight to portray the effects of HIV and AIDS and prepared well for their respective roles. Their acting was superb! Having seen Leto perform live with his band, 30 Seconds to Mars, it was hard to believe that it was actually him on the screen; even though, I had seen the trailer and knew what he was going to look like. He made me believe that he was really Raymond/Rayon and his performance was captivating. You really do forget it’s a guy playing a woman. As important the subject matter was, the director infused a sense of humor, which both lead actors pulled off well.
Filmed in and around New Orleans, the location only added to the authenticity of the subject matter. The camera work was done well showing the emotions of all the actors on the screen using many close-ups. The music was more than appropriate and the supporting actors were well chosen. The adaptation from the news article was handled well as was the overall direction. I had some issues with the dialog, the need for all the sexual encounters, vulgar language used, and the lack of some back story, but I recommend it for all who have an interest in our past history concerning a very serious topic and the excellent acting in the film. GRADE: 4 crowns