Dallas Buyers Club: Membership a Must—Movie

Sometimes heroes emerge from the most unlikely sources. One such hero is Ron Woodroof, founder of the Dallas Buyers Club and a fighter for the right to use unapproved, alternative drugs in the battle against HIV-AIDS. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, with screenplay by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, “Dallas Buyers Club” is the story of how that hero came to be and how far his journey took him.Dallas Buyers Club

In a frighteningly great performance, an emaciated Matthew McConaughey portrays Woodroof, a drug-using, womanizing, hard-drinking, homophobic rodeo cowboy/electrician.  An accident in 1986 sends him to the hospital where a routine blood test shows that he has AIDS. His doctors (Denis O’Hare and Jennifer Garner) tell him to get his affairs in order because he has 30 days to live–he is that far along. Unconvinced that he has the disease and, in truth, worried more about people thinking he’s a “faggot” if word gets out about the diagnosis, he discharges himself from the hospital and immediately goes on an alcoholic, drug-taking binge. But Ron is not as dumb as he would have one believe. When his nagging cough doesn’t get better, he begins to do research on the disease. In so doing, he learns about AZT, a drug that’s being tested as a cure for AIDS. When he goes to the hospital to see if he can get the drug, the doctors tell him it’s not yet considered safe. While at the hospital, Ron meets Rayon (Jared Leto), a transvestite who also has the disease. In their own way the two become friends which will take on more importance later in the story.

Ron’s efforts to get a steady supply of AZT lead him to a doctor in Mexico. The doctor, however, warns him off AZT as a cure-all and introduces Ron to a combination of other drugs which are not approved by the FDA, but more successful and less harmful than AZT. At first, Ron, with the help of Rayon who has access to the gay community which Ron does not, sells these drugs out of a motel room. Ron literally goes global to find the drugs he needs. When attempts to bring the drugs into the U.S. and sell them to other victims of AIDS run into legal obstacles, Ron happens on a news article about the creation of buyer clubs to distribute AIDS-related drugs. Forming the Dallas Buyers Club, he begins selling memberships in the club, which gives members access to the drugs as a way around the drug sale problem.

The making of the “Dallas Buyers Club” could be a movie in and of itself. Ron Woodroof first came to the attention of the public in a 1992 article, “Buying Time,” by Bill Minutaglio, in the Dallas Life Magazine. A then young Craig Borten thought this story would make a terrific film and interviewed Woodroof for several days with that in mind. He wrote a screenplay that had many fits and starts, but finally came to fruition nearly 20 years later, in the resulting “Dallas Buyers Club.”

McConaughey and Leto make the 20 years to get the story to the screen well worth the wait. They give positively brilliant performances as Woodroof and Rayon respectively. Both actors have literally transformed themselves, but their portrayals are much more than mere physical changes. Woodroof’s and Rayon’s personalities are way over the top, but in different ways so that their depictions never overlap or overwhelm. McConaughey has always excelled at playing good-old-boys, but in “Buyers Club” that persona has a real edge to it. Leto hasn’t been on the screen in some time, but his performance shows us what we’ve been missing.

AIDS is still frightening, but much of the hysteria and discrimination associated with it have ebbed. “Buyers Club” brings back all of those feelings as we experience the fear and shunning of Woodroof’s former friends once his disease becomes public. “Dallas Buyers Club” is a reminder of how far we’ve come thanks to the courage and determination of people like Ron Woodroof. The film does him proud.

4 nuggets out of 4

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