“Dallas Buyers Club” gives AIDS outbreak a personal look


Washington Post

Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey, hanging out in “Dallas Buyers Club”

This year Hollywood delivered an unadulterated and personal view into the AIDS outbreak that shook the United States in the 1980s. An almost unrecognizable Matthew McConaughey stars in the sad and brilliant “Dallas Buyers Club.” McConaughey is known for being able to bring a film to the next level, and viewers will be witness to one of his best performances ever. Alongside McConaughey is a Jared Leto that is equally transformed in a way that does justice to the themes portrayed in the film.

Director Jean-Marc Vallee doesn’t shy away from showing the brutal struggle that begins when passionate individuals are given a virus inflicted death sentence.

McConaughey looks much different than he did in other 2012-2013 releases such as “Mud,” “Magic Mike,” “Bernie,” and “The Lincoln Lawyer.” The actor dropped an unhealthy amount of weight and wore a pale and injured face in his portrayal of the real life Ron Woodroof, a homophobic rodeo and electrician living in Dallas, Tx. It seemed that 50 percent of Woodroof’s scenes showed him nursing a flask of whiskey, and a good handful show the loud, mustached cowboy snorting white powder or participating in unprotected sex.

In the opening scenes of the film, Woodroof’s face is bloodied by a group of locals whom he had cheated financially. The gash on Woodroof’s forehead becomes a focal point in following scenes and the camera doesn’t allow this wound to be healed quickly.
Soon audiences and the main character are both given the ground shattering news that Woodroof is HIV positive and only has 30 days to live.

Jared Leto (“Mr. Nobody,” “Requiem for a Dream”) plays Rayon, a transgender character also living in Dallas with a shortened life expectancy. Woodroof and Rayon become business partners first, and friends later, as they both struggle with living in a time where HIV meant certain death.

The mutual disgust felt between the characters is transformed in such a believable way, and it is hard to hold in the waterworks as the two finally embrace towards the end of the film. Director Vallee makes this handshake turned hug shatter the homophobic ideology that was once a vibrant part of Woodroof’s lifestyle.

“Buyers Club” refers to the underground network that grew and flourished during the time of the AIDS outbreak. These “clubs” sold herbal concoctions and drugs notapproved by the FDA to desperate individuals that needed more time to live and love.

The self-centered and prideful Woodroof is redeemed in his endeavor to heal himself and others who are looking for a cure outside of FDA prescriptions drugs that seem to do more harm then good.

AZT was hastily approved and given to AIDS patients during the 80s, and the film acts as a history lesson, showing that the FDA-approved a pharmaceutical that ended up poisoning and weakening AIDS patients even more.

The internal battles of Woodroof and Rayon, and the societal battles of homophobia and LGBT issues are mirrored by the battle between AZT and its money-hungry, and equally desperate backers, and the endeavors of the “buyers clubs.”

Audiences are teleported into the 80s when watching the film. Every set is tremendously constructed, from doctor office to motel room, from the rodeo stadium to the parking lots. Camera movements are used wisely throughout the film. The dead stop of movement in scenes such as the doctor’s office allow audiences to experience the “sinking” feeling that one has when hearing devastating news.

The film is great at being quiet when needed. The gyration and rapid movements in other scenes allow viewers to be on the bull with Woodroof, and give a depth of anxiety and confusion to his curse word driven outbursts, and his face paced “time is running out” attitude throughout the film.

Audiences will be sucked into the intimate story told in this film. The story is one of struggle and defiance, and most of all living with ferocity under dark and quickly changing circumstances.