Written by: Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Denis O’Hare, Steve Zhan
Life-threatening circumstances allow for a level of introspection we never thought we could have in any other phase of life. It presents opportunities to reflect on your past accomplishments, and when it comes to a disease posted with a death sentence, it forces you to make the final moments intentional. Dallas Buyers Club brings into this type of story, as one man battles with something he never thought he would have and how it heavily impacts his life.
Living day by day betting on bull riding and spending his winnings on the company of prostitutes, Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) believes he has full control in his life. It changes when he gets diagnosed with HIV, which calls into question everything he has known about this virus and the limited options available for recovery.
Nothing about Dallas Buyers Club wants to be mild about the subject matter it decided to take on. It comes in full force showing the impact HIV has on one man, but also an entire group of people left with limited options on how they could possibly survive. With it taking place in the 1980s, this era shows the height of misinformation regarding the virus, which included how one could contract it. When Ron received the news, the intensity and anger he harbored towards the doctors could not be contained because it insinuated he had homosexual relations. This became the common belief, especially in places like Dallas where one had to prove their masculinity every time they stepped out of their home. Ron eventually learns the truth of the various different ways the virus could be contracted, which then leaves him with minimal options as his friends abandon him and medicine does not have much support for a cure.
The cultural impact for Ron appears with his friend group being revolted by the mere sight of him after hearing of his condition. A circumstance with conflicting feelings for Ron because he would most likely do the same if the tables were turned with one of his friends. However, it demonstrates the assumptions made if one were to contract this virus during this era. With no social support, Ron tries to go to receive medical assistance, as he’s been given 30 days to live leading to the larger debacle this film tries to take on, pharmaceutical corruption.
With so many people dying from AIDS as a result of HIV, the rush to find a cure kept leading to dead ends, which made contracting the virus a death sentence. The pharmaceutical trials displayed in this film demonstrate the corruption in this industry at its worst. The monetary gain available by fast tracking an unproven treatment conflicts with the ethics of medical professionals in what they provide to their patients. We see this struggle mainly through De. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), as she battles with trying to help Ron and thoroughly examine this new drug, even if the results appear to do more damage and continually gets fast tracked by her superiors. The push and pull of ethics and profit display itself pretty clearly, which leads to what Ron decides to do next.
In its essence, Dallas Buyers Club proves to be a story about survival but also beating the system made for the ultra-wealthy to break and cripple the individual American. This appears when Ron brings in unapproved drugs from other nations to treat people, with better results than what the pharmaceutical companies push. He forms it all around this scheme to form a membership club sharing the name of the title of the film. It demonstrates a level of entrepreneurial spirit by Ron but also seeks to expose exactly what the Food and Drug Administration cares about when certain drugs and treatments get peddled to the American people. Daming in its portrayal and very effective in its messaging.
The performance by Matthew McConaughey certainly calls attention to itself with a large amount of weight loss for the role, where he seemed unrecognizable for several scenes. He fully goes for it in this role and succeeds as he embodies this rustic and unpolished man trying to make it in a world he does not know how to navigate. McConaughey brings his charm, which can pierce through any physique-shifting he takes on for any role. Along with Jared Leto’s performance, they both bring raw humanity to two individuals battling through a time of rampant homophobia, transphobia, and overall disdain for anyone who contracted AIDS. Sure, their performances went a bit overboard with its attempts to be showy, but their work delivered quality performances.
Raw and harsh, Dallas Buyers Club shows the struggle of fighting AIDS in the 1980s, while following a man’s plight to fight off not only this virus, but also a governmental organization unwilling to care for the American people. A story with plenty of jaw-dropping moments and demonstrates McConaughey will do whatever may be necessary for a role.