Dallas Buyer's Club

Rated: R

        Every year, (even before I started reviewing movies,) during the time leading up to, and just after the Academy Awards I make a note of what movies received at least a lot of nominations, if not awards themselves, and do my best to see them, even if they aren’t “my type” of movies.  I guess it’s sort of a different take on my library treasure hunts. And, as with what I find at the library, some are great, and some are terrible. I haven’t kept a true score over the years (maybe I should), but so far I’d say that more often than not I don’t agree with “The Academy”. In the case of Dallas Buyers Club, I’m a bit on the fence. In a moment I’ll explain why.

                Dallas Buyers Club is a biopic, chronicling the first few years of Ron Woodroof’s life after he received an HIV diagnosis in the mid to late 80’s. It portrays the enormous lengths one man went through to extend not only his own life, but the lives of other HIV patients, by smuggling in FDA unapproved drugs from other countries and distributing them.

                This movie, while not doing very well in the box office (it only brought in $27 million and change) was nominated for roughly 115 awards, coming home with 69 of them and 3 Oscars. I believe that most of the buzz around Dallas Buyer's Club had to do with the fact that Matthew McConaughey lost around 50 pounds for his role as Woodroof and Jared Leto not only dressed in drag throughout the movie, but also lost more than 40 pounds to play the transgender Rayon. In an interview with Hadley Freeman of The Guardian, Leto states that he was down to 114 pounds when they began filming. It’s not that either man’s acting was bad in any way, it’s just that the physical transformations for both of them were so alarming it would be easy to see how that could’ve overshadowed all else. In fact, to me anyways, Leto’s character Rayon didn’t feel much different than some of the other roles he’s played. In Dallas Buyers Club he’s a transgender HIV positive desperate drug addict. In Requiem for a Dream he’s a desperate drug addict. In Alexander he’s a desperate gay man. Rayon just didn’t seem like that far of a stretch for him.

                And then there was Jennifer Garner’s portrayal of Woodroof’s physician, Eve. She seemed like an afterthought. I’m not sure if it was the way the character was written, or just the way Garner portrayed her. She just seemed rather mousy to me, afraid to stand up for herself, never mind for her patients. In the grand scheme of the movie, I’d almost deem her unnecessary, but then there HAS to be some scenes in which the sick main character would visit a doctor for it all to make sense, right?

                And of course I had to go and ruin this even further for myself by doing a little research. I was attempting to find out more about the REAL Ron Woodroof, to see how the movie did in portraying him and the events depicted. What I found just made a mess of things. Wikipedia’s page on him is very brief and seems to take information from other sources I found. Biography.com seemed to have the clearest and most extensive story about him. Every other mention of him I found contained disputes arguing one way or the other as to whether or not he was gay, homophobic and racist. Of course some say yes to all three, some say no and some say both. In this case it’s truly impossible to make your way through the muck to the other side any wiser than when you began.

                Either way, while this movie won’t end up being one of my all-time favorites, I do encourage you all to see it. Of course Hollywood took liberties with some of the facts; that’s what they do to keep us entertained, but the underlying story is an important one, no matter how muddled it came out.

                Dallas Buyers Club is rated R, was directed by Jean-Marc Vallee’ and stars Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner. Its available now on Blu Ray, DVD and digital download.