Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dallas Buyers Club

       Based on a true story, this is not an easy film to watch but it chronicles an important time in our history and has two of the best performances on film this year.

      This is the story of Ron Woodruff, a macho electrician and rodeo cowboy who finds out he is HIV positive in 1985.  He is given 30 days to live but once he accepts the truth, he dedicates the time he has left to find drugs that will keep him alive. Matthew McConaughey plays Woodruff and he is devastatingly good. He inhabits the role inside and out (having lost a shocking amount of weight to play the part) and is brilliant in every scene.

      Ron finds out about AZT and does everything he can to get the drug legally from his doctors but soon turns to illegal means to keep himself alive. The early results on AZT were  not great (until lower doses proved more effective) and Ron finds other alternatives from a doctor in Mexico, played by Griffin Dunne. When he starts to respond to the new therapy, he devises a way to get rich and keep himself and others alive at the same time. Thus, The Dallas Buyers Club is born. He gives the drugs away for "free" with a paid membership creating a loophole around the FDA.

       In a strange twist, this "macho", firmly anti-gay Texan ends up befriending an HIV positive transsexual named Rayon who eventually becomes his business partner. Rayon is played by Jared Leto and he is simply remarkable.  Both he and Mr. McConaughey have Oscars in their future. Also co-starring are Jennifer Garner and Dennis O'Hare as a sympathetic doctor and her doctor supervisor who first diagnose Mr. Woodruff. 

      The film is heartbreaking and powerful but probably could have been a bit shorter with the same impact. While certain scenes become repetitive, the performances are riveting and keep you engaged.  While the drugs have gotten better and more people live longer HIV positive, AIDS is still a world wide major concern. Mr. Woodruff's story serves to remind us just how devastating this disease remains today.

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