Screened Out – Dallas Buyers Club

By : Stephen Miller
Comments: 0

Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner

For those of us who lived through our friends and family dying of AIDS, especially early in the crisis, when loved ones seemed to go so quickly, Dallas Buyers Club is a particularly painful and inspiring movie. Unapologetically gritty and unadorned, it may be difficult to sit through. However, gut-wrenching performances make this a vital piece of filmmaking.

It reminds us all what we were fighting for and what we still are fighting for.

Dallas Buyers Club is the story of Ron Woodruff, a rough-and-tumble redneck who inadvertently becomes one of the heroes in HIV history. When Woodruff finds out he is HIV positive, he starts a desperate, lawless crusade that includes securing much-needed drugs for many other Dallas AIDS patients. In many ways, Woodruff is nothing more than an ignorant con man who has just enough intelligence and cunning to see what he has to do to help himself and others. It requires learning quite a bit about pharmacology and regulation.

In the title role, McConaughey is simply astounding. Not only does he take on the painful physical transformation of a person wracked with AIDS, the weight loss alone is excruciating to see. He also pulls no punches showing Woodruff as a dumb, violent man addicted to drugs, hard living, and indiscriminate sex. How Woodruff becomes a very unlikely, sympathetic hero is amazing.

The actors' physical transformations are painful and riveting.

The actors’ physical transformations are painful and riveting.

Helping Woodruff develop a heart is Leto’s character, Rayon, a fading drag queen fighting her own demons. Leto also traverses the physical demands of the disease, but with grace and resignation. It’s a performance that totally wipes out the actor, leaving only the searing image of the heartbreaking character.

At first both Woodruff and Rayon are angry and frantic. They will do anything to extend lives that may not have many redeeming qualities. As they see themselves among fellow sufferers, Woodruff and Rayon turn their own discoveries into a moneymaking scheme. They sell memberships to a club that promises unlimited access to foreign, unapproved and untested drugs. (Many of these drugs make up portions of the cocktail that successfully extended HIV-positive people’s lives today.)

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

Many of us remember the many ways the US government turned a blind eye to AIDS victims. We also recall how the Federal Drug Administration thwarted new treatments getting to needy patients. A myriad of ethical questions were raised about pharmaceutical companies who utilized lobbyists to push their own agendas. The AIDS crisis showed us how bureaucracy and politics willfully and recklessly sacrificed Americans’ lives.

Dallas Buyers Club exemplifies this through just two men’s stories. It’s unrepentant in showing their ugliness, pettiness, and flaws. There are no elaborate camera tricks or manipulative scenes filled with emotional music. It believes in its actors and in its simple script.  Once you see this film, you’ll believe in the power of these things, too.

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