Review: Dallas Buyers Club
Dallas Buyers Club continues the trend of films where true stories are making for great movies, much like American Hustle and Captain Philips. It isn't surprising to see that all three movies are up for Best Picture of the Year this Oscar season as all of them have plenty of drama but in Dallas Buyers Club, it still is a prevalent issue today. I am not talking about the issue of treating AIDS or widespread peoples perception of victims with the disease, but more so the fact that health care is not a service but much more a business. Living in the "best" country in the world with all the medical strides we have made, it is terrifying that it is still viewed as a business where a patient in a bed is looked at as a guinea pig or potential money. This is the main theme that Dallas Buyers Club hits on when the problem was at its height with HIV/AIDS patients.
The plot follows Ron Woodroff (Matthew McConaughey) in the late 1980's who is an electrician and rodeo cowboy portrayed as having heavy homophobic views that is diagnosed with AIDS. Doctors tell him in his condition and considering how he is a heavy drug user and alcoholic who tends to not take care of himself, he has thirty days to live. At first he is hesitant to believe doctors as the disease is synonymous with the homosexual community, but when he recalls having unprotected sex with an intravenous drug user, the reality hits home. With his diagnosis, he finds himself ostracized by his family and friends leaving him no choice but to go back to the hospital. Under the care of Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), she tells him of a drug they are testing on patients called AZT, an antiviral drug that is thought to prolong the life of AIDS patients and the only drug approved by the FDA. However, instead of getting it through the hospital he ends up working a deal with the garbage man to get some to self prescribe himself with. As his health detrioates he ends up in the hospital, where he meets an HIV-positive transgender woman, Rayon (Jared Leto), who he becomes hostile towards due to his homophobic views. However, when he learns how much Rayon pays for the AZT drug he begins to think of a potential business for venue, one that would put a precedent on actually treating the patient as opposed to treating them like a guinea pig.
Through the garbage man at the hospital, he learns of a doctor in Mexico that he could get treatment from. Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne), who was an American based doctor who had his license revoked explains that AZT is toxic as it does treat AIDS, but in a short term capacity as it makes the patients that use it susceptible to so much else. AZT knocks out any cell it comes into contact with, leading patients that use it to suffer from other means like an infection as their immune system is weakened by the drug. Instead, Dr. Vas prescribes him with Zalcitabine and the protein peptide T, both of which are not approved in the United States. On the medication, he finds his health improved greatly three months later, having lived past the sentence that his original doctor told him of thirty days. Seeing how much his health has improved he begins to transport the drugs across the border with the intent of selling them to other HIV-patients with the help of Rayon. Meanwhile, Dr. Saks begins to notice the long term effect of AZT, but her supervisor explains to her that it is after all still a business and it cannot be discontinued having being the only drug approved for their patients. Things are not smooth sailing for Ron and Rayon as they begin to feel pressure pushing down on them by the FDA to shut down their operation.
Dallas Buyers Club is a tremendous drama film that tackles issues that were real in the 1980's and also still prevalent today, albeit to a lesser matter. It is directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, who does a good job behind the camera but there are times where there were a couple of pointless shots that did nothing to the overall story and simply bloated the running time. The true stars of the film are that of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. It is no shock at all to see that both of them are up for awards in their respective categories. McConaughey is very deserving of getting his nomination and quite honestly, he deserves to win it this year. The fact is that he was almost completely unrecognizable throughout parts of the film as he completely transformed himself. The Oscars tend to reward actors that do just that, but beyond his physical transformation, McConaughey perfectly portrayed this man's desperation but also his tenderness. As for Jared Leto, having been away from acting for five years and coming back now he may have given his best performance of his career. Like his co-star, he also went through a bit of a transformation for his role and embodied the role. The best scenes frequently featured the two of them together as they worked off of each other very well. Jennifer Garner also helped give the film more heart. Overall, it truly is a terrific film that benefits from a talented cast, a solid script and a story with plenty of heart.