Dallas Buyers Club written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Voltage Pictures, Truth Entertainment, Focus Features, R, 117 min)
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, and Jared Leto.
Revealing True Colors
There’s something about “life threatening” that reveals your true colors. The tough exteriors we all exhibit daily melt away and that vulnerable self you only show behind closed doors begins to peak out.
Among many themes, Dallas Buyers Club focuses on this vulnerability and the value it can bring when you embrace it.
30 Days to Live
Based on the true story of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), Dallas Buyers Club examines the milieu of a cultural crisis. An electrician and rodeo cowboy, Woodroof lives at 100 mph. Promiscuous with many rodeo groupies, doped out of his mind most nights, and full to the brim with alcohol, Woodroof gets the shock of his life when a work-site injury leaves him in the hospital where Dr. Eve Sakes (Jennifer Garner) has run tests and has confirmed Woodroof’s diagnosis of AIDS.
Given 30 days to live and ostracized by everyone he knows, Woodroof pleads for the only FDA-approved drug in the marketplace—AZT. But in its early stages, AZT is only available in clinical trials—meaning Woodroof would need to sign up for a trial, wait for many months to get accepted and then get entered into a blind trial where he might get the drug or he might get the placebo.
With such a short lifespan, Woodroof resorts to illegal means, discovering an American doctor with a revoked license practicing in Mexico. The doctor gives Woodroof unapproved drugs that improve his quality of life.
Recognizing the value of these drugs and supplements for the AIDS-afflicted people of Dallas, Woodroof sets up a “Dallas Buyers Club” with an HIV-positive transgendered woman, Rayon (Jared Leto). The pair sells memberships to the club and then gives free alternative medicine to its members.
Dallas Buyers Club functions with many layers. At an institutional levels, it tells the story of the terminally ill, who had to fight the government for the ability to take whatever measure necessary to save their lives. Whether AIDS, cancer, or any other terminal disease, the slowly grinding gears of government would allow many to perish so that full testing is accomplished. Yet, if the terminally ill are consenting, why not let them take whatever they feel necessary to give them even the slightest amount of hope?
At a personal level, Dallas Buyers Club juxtaposes opposite lifestyles. Woodroof, classically masculine to grotesque levels, must face his prejudices when he works with and eventually befriends Rayon, a tortured soul, but a loyal friend.
As the Oscar’s suggest, Dallas Buyers Club shines due to its performances. McConaughey and Leto envelope their roles and convey even the most subtle of emotions.
Dallas Buyers Club illustrates the power of vulnerability. When you let others move you, when you see the humanity in others, you might be able to make a profound difference. Dallas Buyers Club is transformative, even when it shows us the dark areas of humanity. Well worth watching.
Verdict: 4 out of 5