Written by Guillermo Troncoso.
Dallas Buyers ClubÂ sees Matthew McConaughey give a career-best performance in a film that not only works beautifully as a multilayered drama, but excels as a film with a powerful social agenda.
Dallas Buyers ClubÂ is basedÂ on the true story of Ron WoodroofÂ (McConaughey), a Texas electrician whose world is turnedÂ upside down when he learns that he has been diagnosedÂ with HIV in 1985. The film portrays WoodroofÂ as a heavy-drinking, womanisingÂ homophobe, who is shockedÂ to find out that he has contracted a virus that many considered to beÂ primarily contracted by homosexual intercourse. As he struggles to come to terms with his rapidly deterioratingÂ condition, he begins to search for medicine that can help. His search leads him to Mexico, and he begins to smuggle back pharmaceutical drugs that aren’t government-approved. Before long, Woodroof, with the help of Rayon, a transsexual played by Jared Leto, isÂ providing unauthorised drugs for monthly fees.
Many have spoken about the collision between fact and fiction, especially regardingÂ Woodroof’sÂ character, but, while that may matter to many, this character works within the context of this very impressive film.Â WoodroofÂ is a complex character. He is a man that transforms before our very eyes,Â thanks to McConaughey’sÂ jaw-dropping performance. He is anything but a saint. He drinks, sleeps around and snorts cocaine every chance he gets. He goes from a man angrily exclaiming how impossible it is for him to have a disease which only affects “faggots”, to an unlikely AIDS activist representing a community stricken with the deadly disease. While much has been madeÂ about McConaughey’s obvious weight-loss for the role, it is his emotional and charismatic performance that really drives this film. A man unwaveringly determined to beat his condition, a man who took theÂ Food and Drug AdministrationÂ (FDA) to court.
The film uses the classical film tropes associated with pictures depicting “the little man” taking on corporations and governments. There isn’t exactly a singular villain to beÂ found here, apart from the AIDS virus itself, but the bad guys are depictedÂ as the profit-chasing corporate-suits working for the FDA. Woodroof’sÂ fight is clearly shown from a singular light: a man fighting against the FDA’s lack of action in getting effective treatments to those in desperate need. Woodroof’s struggle, at times, seems a little one-sided, but his fight is one that many stand for, as shown with the support he receives from supporting characters.
One of those who stand by WoodroofÂ is Rayon, a drug-addicted transsexual equally asÂ determined to look out for herself, but whose decidedly different persona works as the YingÂ to Woodroof’sÂ Yang. Jared Leto’s portrayal of Rayon’s charismatic, witty and vulnerable persona is truly outstanding. The relationship between Rayon and WoodroofÂ is heartbreakinglyÂ tender and realistic, made further impressive by the unsentimental approach the film is given. Jennifer Garner also provides a decent performance as Eve, a doctor who is slowly drawn into Woodroof and Rayon’s circumstances.
The film’s naturalistic style works wonders with the film’s plot. Director Jean-Marc VallÃ©eÂ (C.R.A.Z.Y., The Young Victoria) tackles the film in a matter-of-fact approach that lets the wonderful screenplay, byÂ Craig BortenÂ andÂ Melisa Wallack, unfold on its own merit. Dallas Buyers ClubÂ empathisesÂ with its characters, leading us to do the same. WoodroofÂ and Rayon’s stories are painful and dark, but the film doesn’t wallow in its depressing factors. Thankfully, there’s a wry sense of humour peppered throughout the film’s emotional plot, perfectly balancing out what may beÂ one of the best takes on AIDS that the cinema has seen. The unsentimental approach detracts slightly from the film’s ending, as you’re left more pensive than moved. This may beÂ the filmmaker’s point, but a big emotional payoff is left wanting. This is but a minor qualm to be had in a film bursting with talent. Dallas Buyers Club is a soulful picture that is expertly crafted,Â lovingly written, confidently directed and admirably performed.
THE REEL SCORE: 9/10