Dallas Buyers’ Club: Oscar Bound
By Sandra Olmsted
At the very least, Matthew McConaughey should get an Oscar nomination for his role as Ron Woodroof, a homophobic, hedonistic Texan whose bad lifestyle choices lead to a diagnoses of AIDS in the film Dallas Buyers’ Club. Taking the diagnosis as a personal affront to his manhood, Ron ignores the diagnosis and pretends there’s nothing wrong until his health begins to fail. Then he’s very proactive.
Unwilling to risk not getting the actual AZT in a clinical study, he bribes a hospital worker to sell him the AZT on the down low. He takes the AZT like he drinks — more is better — until he lands in the hospital very ill. There he meets and forms an unlikely friendship with Rayon (Jared Leto), a gay cross dresser who is in worse shape than Ron. Eventually, Ron goes on a bender to Mexico and lands in a hospital for AIDS patients run by Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne), an unlicensed American doctor who successfully treats AIDS patients with anti-viral drugs, vitamins, and other treatments which the FDA has not approved.
While the FDA, doctors, and big drug companies plot to make a fortune on the AZT, which turns out to be highly toxic, Ron turns his problem into an entrepreneurial opportunity. He does his research and realizes that to get around “selling drugs” others have set up clubs where a monthly membership gets the members all the medications they need. Soon Ron is traveling to Japan, China, the Netherlands, and Mexico, of course, to provide his members with the drug treatments they need and want. Rayon, now his business partner, helps with the business and with recruiting new members because Ron’s redneck ways are problematic at times.
The real challenges to Ron’s “advocacy” for better AIDS treatments, however, attract unwanted attention from FDA, the DEA and the IRS, who want to shut the Dallas Buyers Club down because it threatens kickbacks from the drug companies. Eventually, Ron gets an unlikely ally in Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), who realizes that Ron is doing what the medical profession should be doing — advocating for AIDS patents’ rights. While not by nature an advocate for Gay rights, Ron knows what he is doing is right, and his redneck resourcefulness might save the day and many lives, especially his own.
Although the opening scenes of Ron’s hedonism are hard to watch, the film’s tone shifts as the character of Ron shifts. When he experiences the same prejudice as others with the “Gay disease” or when evades the law in ingenious, bumptious ways, McConaughey lets a little of the better man Ron is peek out from his rough, redneck exterior and reveals just how talented an actor he is.
McConaughey would carry this film regardless of the rest of the talent or the production values. Leto’s performance is also remarkable, and both actors transform themselves physically by losing weight and emotionally by getting into these characters. In addition, this film benefits from the work of Jean-Marc Vallee, a talented director, who gets nuance out of all the actors and out of Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack’s brilliant script. Cinematographer Yves Belanger gives the film gritty and a sun drenched look.
A Focus Features release, Dallas Buyers Club is rated R for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, nudity and drug use and runs 117 minutes. For those interested in seeing potential Oscar nomination films, this one should be on the must see list. Dallas Buyers Club is in theaters now.
More of Olmsted’s reviews are available at her website: <www.thecinematicskinny.com>.
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