Dallas Buyers Club doesn’t beat about the bush when it comes to introducing the protagonist.
Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is a sexist, homophobic mysoginist and when we first see him, having sex with with a woman backstage at a rodeo, he’s incredibly gaunt and looking like shit. It’s no wonder, then, that he collapses at home and then drinks himself into a stupor.
Following an unscheduled trip to the hospital, doctors confirm that he is HIV+ and they believe he has 30 days left before he shuffles off his mortal coil. Enter Avonex, a pharmaceutical company where money talks, and they’re pushing human AZT trials in Dallas, whereas other states have only gone for animal trials at the initial stage. At the same time, Ron is in the library, boning up on AIDS via microfiche and remembering his hedonistic, heterosexual days which is what landed him in his current position, one which leads to ignorant members of the community cruelly branding him a “faggot”.
After being unable to get on the AZT trials and listing a number of anti-virals being used in other countries, a female doctor, Eve (Jennifer Garner), tells him he can’t have them prescribed because they haven’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, aka the FDA. He responds, “Screw the FDA, I’m goin’ to be DOA!”
After all, when it takes 8-12 years for a drug to go through the trial stage and become approved, that’ll mean nothing to those in the same position as Ron Woodroof.
Critics are surprised that, in addition to the weight-loss discipline, McConaughey has put on such a great performance, but I think he’s always been a good actor. A few years ago, hardly anyone went to see The Lincoln Lawyer, for example, but it’s a great film.
As he heads inexorably to the 30-day limit set by the doctors, he meets Rayon, a transvestite, played by Jared Leto, who should also be commended for his performance. And in time, once Ron’s condition has improved slightly, he hits upon the idea of selling all those unapproved anti-virals and making a packet out of it, under the guise of “memberships”. And he calls it the “Dallas Buyers Club”.
When it comes to the supporting cast, despite the fact that Jennifer Garner plays a massive part in the proceedings here, I don’t think she’s that great an actress. However, there’s good support from Denis O’Hare as Dr. Sevard, the other doctor in charge of treating Ron, Steve Zahn as Ron’s policeman friend Tucker, Michael O’Neill as Richard Barkley, the man who wants to put Ron behind bars for a long time for his drug-selling activities and Griffin Dunne as Dr. Vass, and I can’t say he brings Ron back to the land of the living, but he does help him stick to his meds.
Thankfully, Dallas Buyers Club doesn’t give us endless hours of preamble bollocks before it gets straight into the meat of the story, this starts at the point where the shit begins to hit the fan and progresses from there.
Shot over 25 days and made on a budget of $5.5m, and with music coming only from that heard during the time in which it’s set rather than incidental music being used, this is a must-see film although in its third act it does rather go on a bit in not really working out how it should get to its conclusion, meandering as it does so, but what you see before that is solid.
Dallas Buyers Club is out in the cinema now and released on Blu-ray & DVD later this year. As I type, a date hasn’t yet been set but if you click on the those links and add it to your Amazon wish-list then you’ll soon find out. I would expect sometime during May.
Running time: 118 minutes
Released: February 7th 2014
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Producers: Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter
Screenplay: Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
Ron Woodroof: Matthew McConaughey
Eve: Jennifer Garner
Rayon: Jared Leto
Dr. Sevard: Denis O’Hare
Tucker: Steve Zahn
Richard Barkley: Michael O’Neill
David Wayne: Dallas Roberts
Dr. Vass: Griffin Dunne
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.