Saturday 4 January 2014

Movie Review: Dallas Buyers Club

Real story, real life, real drama. It's an amazing film, but it is even more so considering that this is the story of an actual person. Small is ofttimes better and with a budget of only $5 million, this movie very much relies on story and acting, not special effects.

Matthew McConaughey gives a superb performance as Ron Woodward, a homophobic, drug addicted part-time rodeo cowboy in Dallas, Texas. It's 1985, the height of the AIDS epidemic in the United States, and Woodward, a heterosexual man, has unprotected sex and unknowingly becomes infected. A visit to a hospital leads to the unbelievable pronouncement he has 30 days to live. From there, he embarks on a personal journey of research and self-medication after a new conventional treatment nearly kills him. He circumvents the system by buying legal but not FDA approved treatments out of country and selling to others who, like him, do not want to roll over and die. Woodward first operates as a common drug pusher then starts a "buyers club" where members have access to his drugs and treatments. While at first glance, it may seem shady, Woodward turns out to be living proof of the success of the alternate treatments as he lives well beyond the original diagnosis of 30 days. The films ends by saying Woodward died of AIDS in 1992, seven years later.

The film is thought-provoking in so many ways. Woodward is homophobic but teams up with a transvestite and develops a clientele from the gay community. An agent from the FDA pursues Woodward and eventually shuts down his operation. It is stunning to watch the authorities follow the letter of the law and essentially condemn people to death. A hospital gets into bed with big pharmacy all in the name of profit while ignoring saner more effective treatments. For me, the take away is that our society, the collective we, tries to do its best to make the world safe for us but gets bogged down in procedure, law, and profit. Why does the hospital go along with big pharmacy? Why do the doctors ignore the alternatives used elsewhere in the world? I couldn't help think of the hubbub surrounding Obamacare: how the United States spends more on health care than any other country in the world and how desperately the system needs to be overhauled.

I have seen the ravages of AIDS first-hand; a friend died from it. Nobody, absolutely nobody deserves such an end. Considering the film is set in 1985, I think back on Christian leaders calling AIDS the judgement of God against homosexuality. How despicable. And here, in this film, Woodward is seen contracting the disease from a woman. Sickness ignores race, colour, creed and sexual orientation.

An FYI about method acting. I mentioned Christian Bale fattening himself up to get a pot belly in the film American Hustle. I will mention here how Matthew McConaughey looked as though he starved himself. He looks gaunt having lost quite a bit of weight. (One source I found claims the actor lost 50 pounds!) It doesn't look good and I'm wondering how healthy this is. McConaughey had a part in the film The Wolf of Wall Street and I was a little taken aback at how gaunt he looked there. Since the two films were released sort of around the same time, I conjecture his starving himself persisted for a period of time.

Final Word
This is a terrific film. It is a story which makes you reflect on the preciousness of life and the scariness of death. Yes, we're all going to die sooner or later, let's hope it isn't going to be a doctor telling us we have contracted an incurable disease.


Rotten Tomatoes: Dallas Buyers Club: 92%
Dallas Buyers Club rests squarely on Matthew McConaughey's scrawny shoulders, and he carries the burden gracefully with what might be a career-best performance.

Wikipedia: Dallas Buyers Club
Dallas Buyers Club is a 2013 American biographical drama film directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner and Steve Zahn. The film is based on the true-life tale of Ron Woodroof, who was the subject of a lengthy 1992 article in The Dallas Morning News written by journalist and author Bill Minutaglio. The film was released on November 1, 2013.

official web site: Dallas Buyers Club


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