New movies come out constantly. Every time you turn around, there is something just opening for you to see. But movies that inspire, that tell true stories of survival, overcoming adversity and the learning of tolerance, these are the films that are truly special and worth heading to the theater to pay the ever-expanding ticket price for. Dallas Buyers Club does all these things and so much more.
You’ve always loved Matthew McConaughey. Admit it. Whether you’re a fan of his from his romantic-comedy past, his turn in Dazed and Confused as the coolest guy in town, or from the motley crew of roles he has played, there’s something about him that you’ve always enjoyed. It’s okay, you’re in a safe space here. Over the last few years, McConaughey has taken his career up a notch, choosing unique, compelling characters that suit more a veteran character actor than a gorgeous marquee hunk who stars in one rom-com after another. Beginning with 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer, McConaughey has made one solid, interesting choice after another. Bernie, Mud, Killer Joe and The Paperboy all showcased his ability to truly act and lose himself in a character. And he was actually stellar in Magic Mike, playing the intense, cunning, charismatic club owner.
But it’s McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club that skyrockets him to the upper echelon of actors’ greatest performances. He is completely mesmerizing as real-life Texan Ron Woodroff, a bull-fighting, hard-partying, promiscuous cowboy who is diagnosed with AIDS in 1986. Back then, AIDS was still known to predominantly effect the homosexual community. Woodroof, who begins the movie as a homophobic, intolerant person, undergoes a thrilling metamorphosis of character throughout the process of coping with his illness.
The transformation most commonly known about Dallas Buyers Club, perhaps what people know most about the movie in general, is the mind-blowing alteration of McConaughey’s physique in preparation of the role. McConaughey lost a shocking amount of weight (a reported 38 to 50 pounds) and has received some negative reactions. Some say that he may have gone too far as far as his health, or that drastic weight loss should not be confused with great acting, or ‘Why should anyone care at all?’. But McConaughey, being so known for his gorgeous, beefy good looks, made a brilliant decision to drastically alter his appearance. His emaciated frame works perfectly for dramatic effect in order for viewers to fully believe his performance as Woodroof.
Ron is told he has 30 days to live at the beginning of the movie and he could not appear to possibly be any sicker – constantly coughing, passing out and suffering from dizzy spells. For any of this to be believable, the actor better damn well look sick and McConaughey looks beyond believable as a man suffering from an illness that was, at the time, a death sentence. Woodroof/McConaughey appears like a walking skeleton, one that could keel over at any time, and often does. Also, when an actor or actress reaches the level of stardom that McConaughey has reached, in order to be believable as almost anything other than “Oh, look, it’s Matthew McConaughey playing so-and-so”, a physical transformation is almost required at this point. While watching Dallas Buyers Club, you forget you are even looking at McConaughey and this happens as well with co-star Jared Leto.
Now back to the film’s story. The movie provides an informative historical narrative of the harrowing difficulties HIV and AIDS patients faced during the time period. The movie teaches how drugs had not been approved or developed properly, leading to, almost always, sure death for the afflicted. There were clinical trials being done on AZT but for patients with full-blown AIDS, the drug was too toxic and very harmful. Plus, you had to first be chosen for the trial at all. Ron, a natural born hustler and gamblin’ man, is frantic to live past the 30 days assigned to him and decides to take matters into his own hands. He tracks down the proteins and herbal remedies being used in other countries and begins a “buyers club,” in which steep membership fees granted unlimited medicine.
Soon after being diagnosed, Ron becomes acquainted with Rayon, a beautiful, outgoing transgendered woman who also suffers from AIDS. Rayon is played by the wonderful Leto, who also completely disappears into his role. Rayon is incredibly warm and outgoing and becomes Ron’s business partner thanks to her personable nature with customers and networking presence in the LGBT community. Rayon becomes the person responsible for enlightening Ron and weathering away his prejudices, making this role critical to the central development in the story. Like McConaughey, Leto also whittled himself down to skin-and-bones and is completely believable as a person fighting for his life. He also acts incredibly feminine and nails the role of a male-to-female transgendered individual. Oscar buzz is surrounding both Leto and McConaughey and either one would greatly deserve the golden statue. Jennifer Garner does a good job as a friendly, accepting doctor but the fact that she looks like herself, compared with her fellow actors, negates her ability to fully encapsulate the role anywhere near to the way they do (unfair but true).
Superb performances and an engrossing story make Dallas Buyers Club a must see. The historical testimony the movie tells is one that all people should learn about – the struggle that faced early HIV/AIDS patients and the prejudice they faced. Dallas Buyers Club details the incredible will to survive a person can experience when tested and McConaughey acts this out in emotional, powerful and inspiring ways. We are lucky to be witnessing McConaughey, who is already a megastar, continue to rise with his role choices and on-screen interpretations only improving with age.
Interviews with Matthew and Jared