STARS: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn
DIRECTOR: Jean-Marc Vallee
Ron Woodruff was a Texas good ol' boy who was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1986--back when AIDS was a highly misunderstood, feared and maligned disease. Rather than accept a doctor's bleak prognosis, Woodruff became a crusader (without the cape) for alternative drugs and supplements not approved by the FDA, but which showed some promise in treating the disease. And that's how The Dallas Buyers Club came into being. Woodruff became a smuggler--obtaining his meds by hook or by crook from far-flung locales such as Mexico and Japan. He then sold them to AIDS patients who, by all accounts, benefited through his efforts. And he kept himself alive for several more years.
In The Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey plays Woodruff as a foul-mouthed, bigoted, chauvinistic, homophobic, drug and sex addicted redneck rodeo cowboy who wants to take a swing at anybody who slights him or doesn't give him his way. The real Ron Woodruff was reportedly a bit of all that, but everything gets magnified in the movies. McConaughey has the look down pat--he dropped more than 40 pounds for the role--but the real Ron Woodruff had a softer, baby-faced kind of look, and he is remembered fondly by those who knew him. So I suspect he wasn't quite the scowling first-class A-hole portrayed here.
Jennifer Garner plays Dr. Eve Saks, who becomes Woodruff's ally and friend. Jared Leto is Rayon, a transgender fellow AIDS sufferer who helps turn Woodruff from homophobe to seemingly compassionate advocate. Both characters are composites, and not based on actual persons.
How much of Woodruff's motivation in forming The Dallas Buyers Club was selfish--to provide an income and keep himself alive--and how much of it reflected a compassionate activism, especially as time went on, is open to speculation. He stated in an interview that his mark-up on the drugs only covered his operating costs.
How much of Matthew McConaughey's motivation in shedding 40 to 50 pounds to be appropriately gaunt looking for this role was motivated by his paycheck, or wanting passionately to tell a compelling story is also open to speculation. Sacrificing for one's art is a noble endeavor, but in this case--messing around with his health in such a manner--I think he's plain nuts.
But he's a lock for an Academy Award nomination, and most likely wins for Best Actor. (Anthony Hopkins has to consider himself lucky in that all he had to do to become Alfred Hitchcock was wear a fat suit!)
Grade: B +
Is it me or are more and more movies being made these days that are 'based on real people'? I guess Hollywood moguls have finally bought into the idea that "truth is stranger than fiction." Only in their eyes, "truth is more lucrative than fiction." Is it? If The Butler, Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks are any indication, I'd say it is. Personally, I'd much rather watch something based on reality even if the screenwriters take a lot of liberties with the story line and the main character. No doubt Tim's research about Ron Woodruff being less of an asshole than the Ron Woodruff we see in The Dallas Buyers Club is accurate. But just like I prefer nonfiction movies, I also gravitate towards 'bad boys.' Nobody does bad boy better than McConaughey. And once you get over how incredibly skinny he is in this film, you can't help but love/hate the guy.
Those early days of AIDS are quickly established in the beginning of this movie when a bunch of redneck rodeo riders sit around gay-bashing Rock Hudson who, it has just been announced, has AIDS. (Of course I loved one knucklehead's reaction: "Who's Rock Hudson?") It's a poignant film and often painful to watch. And the person I predict will get an Oscar nod is Jared Leto who, aside from being a brilliant actor, is an accomplished musician and the main songwriter for the rock group Thirty Seconds to Mars.
I'm with Tim on this one. It's worth the price of admission—and then some.