Guess Advil and getting your recommended nine hours doesn’t cure everything.
The true story of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), a hard-partying rodeo-man that doesn’t take a single ounce of his life for granted, that is, until his life is about to be cut-short after he receives news of contracting the HIV virus. Woodroof is the type of good ole’ Southern boy that likes to party hide, with all sorts of women, drugs and booze, which is why he responds so violently and angrily thinking that only homosexuals contract the virus. Basically, he thinks it’s a mistake, until he realizes that his body is only deteriorating by the day, which is when he ultimately wakes up, smells the cauliflower and realizes that he has a life that’s worth living, and he will do whatever he has in his might to keep it going. Especially even if that means he has to get involved with illegal drug-trading with the rest of the gay community through local cross-dresser Rayon (Jared Leto). Especially then, even if he is a total homophobe that wants nothing to do with men, or their penises. He just wants to make some easy cash and just keep on living, man.
There have been plenty of movies in the past that have touched upon the HIV virus and for that, we have Philadelphia to thank. Now, I know that Philadelphia sure as hell wasn’t the first flick ever to discuss the HIV virus with such bluntness, but it was the first mainstream movie to do so, all in order to get people’s attention and wake them up to the real problems that people were facing on a daily-basis, the same type of problems that you may or may not have heard on the six o’clock news. That’s why it is only fitting that 20 years later, the HIV virus still continues to get the movie’s it deserves to have people look up, take notice of what’s happening and try to band together and find a cure, dammit!
What surprised me the most about this movie was, aside from the fact that it is awfully emotional when it wants to be, is how much of a light-hearted approach it takes to a very serious subject, yet, it isn’t out-of-place or in bad-taste at all, because the subject that this movie is basically all about, was that type of person: Fun, exciting, jumpy and always in a rush to get whatever he needed to get done, done. The movie gives us its story, gives us a reason why it all matters, why we should care and basically lets it all breeze-by right quick, where we see how this underground drug-trading may have been illegal as illegal can be, but yet, benefited those who needed it the most.
In a way, despite Woodroof being a very homophobic man that wants nothing to do with the gay community whatsoever, starts helping out that same community and becomes something of a savior to them. Granted, he still wants his money right up-front, and if he doesn’t get the known-amount, it’s your ass to the curb, but you can still feel like this guy wants to do right for the world and for people who need it the most, even if he is a bit of a prick that’s in it just for the money and to keep himself alive. So yeah, he’s not the most sensitive guy out there in the world, but the movie still has you on his side right away and begins to build up this whole “him vs. the rest of the world” argument that the flick takes a little too one-sided, but still utilizes effectively in getting you inside the minds of so many people that were. and probably still are, having the same exact thoughts as to why they weren’t getting the treatment they oh so desired, and if they were, why wasn’t it legally FDA approved?
Basically, what it all comes down to is that people want to make money, and that’s that. Or, at least that’s what I got from this movie which was a bit of a lame-ass way of telling both sides and giving them their story. I get it, the movie is more on the side of Woodroof who literally did all that he could for the same community he all but banished, but there could have been a bit more juggling in terms of view-points and sympathy. For instance, the strangest aspect behind this movie is that the only openly-gay actor in the whole movie (from what I know of) is Denis O’Hare who, believe it or not, plays the most detestable character in the whole movie as the main doctor who doesn’t really care much about Woodroof’s drug, only that it takes away his patients that he wants using his approved-drug, AZT, the same type of drug that also happens to be doing more harm, than actual good for those said patients.
What’s odd about O’Hare’s character is that you’d feel like since this man himself is part of the same community that his character is against, that you’d get more dimensions to him than just meets the eyes. But nope. Instead, he’s just a schmuck who is all about the money, getting the rewards benefits at the end of every year and doesn’t give a lick what actually benefits his patients. He’s not alone in those regards as the DEA agents who continuously crack down and grow suspicious of Woodroof’s “business” he is attending to, also seem like a bunch of cold, heartless a-holes that don’t give two shits about whether or not these homosexuals he’s helping actually live or die, they just want to prove that the law, no matter what, always prevails. Except for Steve Zahn’s character, but then again, he’s Steve Zahn. What? Did you actually expect him to play an unlikable dude? Come on!
Since the antagonists are such ever loving douchebags, this gives the protagonists plenty of leg-room to show their likable features which, in essence, also allows the actors themselves to strut their stuff and give some of the best performances any of them have had in a long, long, long while. The main person who is getting the most attention out of everything else that has to do with this flick is Matthew McConaughey, and for so many justifiable reasons. For starters, the cat lost close to 50 pounds here to give us the impression that yes, this man is dying; yes, his skin is all wrinkly; and yes, his clothes barely fit him. Not only does this add a huge sense of realism to his performance, so much so in a way that it’s uncomfortable to watch him much like Christian Bale was in the Machinist, but also makes you feel like the guy is literally dying right in front of our eyes, just as each and every day goes by.
McConaughey’s boyish charm comes into play many of times, giving Woodroof a playful, fun feel that works well for him when he practically becomes a small-time drug kingpin, but also gives us a man that feels like, despite all of his cracks and screws being shown to us on countless occasions, is all doing this for the right reasons. Like I said before, he’s not perfect, but he does eventually grow into becoming an receptive, nice, kind and generous man that knows when business becomes more than just business, and humanity begins to take over. Of course, this transition from bastard-to-good-guy never, not even for a second, rings false, because McConaughey always shows him as the type of hardened-soul that wants to keep on living on, just as for long as he can, with as many pleasures as he can, without having sex and infecting others around him. Plenty of buzz has been made about McConaughey here, and it’s all deserved because not only is this his most-demanding performance yet, but it’s also probably his richest, giving us the type of lovable, enthusiastic character we love seeing him play, and giving him a darker side that shows layers, upon layers, upon layers, just as his life-watch continues to keep on tick, tick, tickin’ away.
However, plenty of buzz is also being made about Jared Leto’s huge transformation as well, playing Rayon, the local crossdresser Woodroof starts business up with, and that’s definitely deserved too. And that’s a huge surprise coming from a person like me, especially considering that with every new album or song his shitastic band 30 Seconds to Mars releases, I continue to grow less and less fonder of him, not just as an artist, but as a person. Thankfully though, Leto comes back from shadows and gives us a performance that’s not only captivating in the way that he shows this Rayon character as being a saddened, rendered soul, but one that’s still strong and will find a way to end this epidemic, along with the homophobic Woodroof. Together, they form a nice bond that isn’t like buddy-buddy, but more that it’s business-partner relationship, that has some ties in friendship, but nothing too much that crosses boundaries; the way that Woodroof clearly likes it. I would not be the least bit surprised if Leto gets a nomination for his work here, not only because of what he does with his character, but how, now two, totally opposite times, he has done a full-on transformation, embodying his character’s soul anyway he can.
Let’s just hope this means that he’ll stick with movies from now on in, and keep away from making anymore crappy music. And no, I will not even throw a link in there. I refuse to.
Also, Jennifer Garner’s here trying to earn some street-cred playing a nurse that not only joins the cause that Woodroof is fighting for, but works as something as conduit that gets him bits and pieces of information in order to help him continue what it is that he’s doing to save these people. Garner is good, but in all honesty, her role is stretched-out a little further than it needs to be; and the only reason it feels like that is because it’s Jennifer Garner in that role, and not somebody like say, my sister, Siobhan, or my dog, Pearl. Either one of them, no attention whatsoever. What’s wrong the movie-business these days, dammit?!?!
Consensus: There may be a lot of emotional-baggage that it certainly can’t handle, but nonetheless, Dallas Buyers Club is still a heartfelt, poignant and somewhat inspiring take on a little-known, but very important story about Ron Woodroof, played to perfection by an Oscar-worthy, and nearly-starving Matthew McConaughey.
8 / 10 = Matinee!!