Dallas Buyers Club (4 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by: Jean Marc-Vallee (The Young Victoria)
Written by: Craig Bortan and Melisa Wallack (Mirror Mirror)
Starring Matthew McConnaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner
People always talk about the fact that a "cure" for HIV/AIDS has to be around the corner. This film focuses on buyers clubs which are underground methods which attempt to get around federal/state laws. Buyers clubs exist for all sorts of this ranging from marijuana to the focus of this film the Dallas Byers Club, which helped people get safe medication while high dosage of AZT was crippling people's immune systems.
The film tells the story of Ron Woodroof (McConnaughey) a straight male who is diagnosed with HIV and eventually contracts the AIDS virus. Woodroof had lots of unprotected sex and did lots of drugs, but at the time of his diagnosis HIV/AIDS was still known as GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency). The climate of Texas at the time, and for the most part still today there was rampant homophobia. Woodroof is told he has 30 days, and eventually fights to get treatment through buying AZT illegally. Once the well runs dry Woodroof ends up in Mexico and all over the world finding alternatives to helping people feel healthy with the disease. Woodroof starts this buyers club with woman named Rayon (Leto), together they create the Dallas Buyers Club where they sell membership to people dying of the diseases.
Club is a powerful film, and the film is made great by the performances from McConnaughey and Leto. McConnaughey has knocked me out this year with two terrific performances in both this and Mud. In Club McConnaughey transforms his body for the role losing tons of weight, but also disappearing into this character. Woodroof is kind of scumbag throughout most of the movie, and he's someone you want to hate mainly for his rampant homophobia. McConnaughey adds so many layers to this character making him layered, showing his passion, and heart to not help keep himself healthy, but to do right by other people in fighting the FDA on the policies. The best role of his career.
I have always thought Leto was a great actor, Fight Club, American Psycho, but most of his career has been focused on his time as a musician with 30 Seconds to Mars. Leto proves he has the chops as Rayon a transgender female. While McConnaughey is going to get most of the attention because he is great, Leto gives this film heart; he is fantastic as Rayon. Rayon has confidence, but in her vulnerable moments Leto shows the cracks in the exterior beautifully; he is phenomenal.
While these two men deserve the vast majority of the credit, the unsung hero of this project is writer Craig Bortan. There is no data,, or information about Woodroof beyond an interview Bortan did with him in 1992 one month before Woodroof passed away. In the interview Woodroof was said to be incredibly candid, mainly because he knew was so close to death. Bortan does a good job giving these two people such fantastic depth. My one complaint in the film is Garner's character who plays a doctor, helping run AZT trials. Garner is great, but I think the character pulls focus away from these two. Woodroof getting a love interest made the man in the film "more like able" but the goal of the film should be the man behind the club. I found McConnaughey's growth as a person and connection to Rayon to be strong enough to make this a great film.
Director Jean Marc-Vallee brings to life an intricately woven tale about a complex man, and his constant struggle to live while fighting the government and some of their most inane regulations. Marc-Vallee's first film, which I saw entitled C.R.A.Z.Y., was fantastic, The Young Victoria was a bit cold, but not bad. This takes his direction to a whole new level, and creates an experience, which can't be forgotten.