“Dallas Buyers Club”– Not for Cowboys (or, A Lone Star in the Fight against AIDS)


Jared Leto as Rayon

Jared Leto as Rayon

The true-life story of Texas AIDS pioneer, Ron Woodroof,  set in 1985 Dallas, depicts his battle to fight for his life after being diagnosed as HIV-positive. His search for life-supporting  experimental drugs via Mexico to help fellow HIV-positive people is the heart of “Dallas Buyers Club“.

Part-time rodeo bull rider Ron Woodroof (the skeletal Matthew McConaughey in an Academy Award-nominated performance) is rudderless–smoking heavily, snorting cocaine, having a lot of sex with prostitutes. He is also grossly unsympathetic for his racism and homophobia. While in the hospital on a work-related injury, the doctors inform him that he is HIV+, and that he probably has only thirty days to live.

In denial, and assuming that AIDS is exclusively a disease for “faggots”, Woodroff refuses to give up hope and begins to do research on experimental treatments. Ron begins to smuggle drugs not approved by the FDA into the US. In an unexpected business partnership with a transvestite named Rayon (the striking Jared Leto), the two AIDS patients establish a “buyers club” which does not, theoretically, sell drugs but rather disperses them to its members. Dr. Eve Saks (played by Jennifer Garner), one of Ron’s doctors, is caught between hospital policy and empathy for her patients but decides to help their cause.

“Dallas Buyers Club” is character-driven as well as plot-driven, focusing on the relationship between Woodroof and Rayon, polar opposites who need and want each other.  The performances are remarkable, perhaps as much  for the costumes and physical transformation as for the acting. McConaughey lost over forty pounds, rendering him virtually unrecognizable and painful to watch.  Leto, also nominated for an Academy Award, is wafer-thin, dressing up in over-the-top attire and makeup.  As Rayon, Leto delivers  a much more likable, even humorous, character and matches McConaughey’s intensity scene for scene.

Because of a tightly woven narrative and excellent performances by all members of the cast, this indie film presents the thematic threads of government corruption, big pharmaceutical profits, and homophobia without hyperbole and pandering.  An excellent choice for the Academy Awards!


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