A Big Gamble
By Adam Sturrock
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Writer: Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto
The past few years have seen Matthew McConaughey consistently churn out solid performance after solid performance. Following up after the film, Mud, we see him continue to eviscerate his body in order to play AIDS affected Ronald Woodruff in the Biopic, Dallas Buyers Club. Featuring a stellar cast and equally impressive performances from Leto, Garner and McConaughey, this looks to be a serious contender for a gong or two.
It would be quite easy to assume that Matthew is the main enticement to see this film then? Step in Jared Leto. He absolutely mesmerizes as the charismatic, transgender Rayon. Providing both comical and heartbreaking moments throughout the film, the 30 Seconds to Mars singer proves once and for all that he is deadly serious about acting and has the acting depth to prove so. He too had to shed the pounds in order to get the role in the film; not that gaining and losing the weight will win you an award as he previously put on the opposite amount in order to play the deeply disturbed, Mark Chapman in the somewhat disappointment, Chapter 27. The impact of Leto on this film is so profound that the Actors Guild may have to remove his fingers in order to prize the gong from his hands.
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The movie is still relevant today due to its subject matter being still a problem in modern society; HIV and AIDS. Based off the real life events faced by Woodruff in the 80s, he faced an almost guaranteed death sentence after being diagnosed as HIV positive and is cruelly ostracized by both his friends and co-workers after being suggested to have partaken in homosexual activity. Smoking, gambling, promiscuous, racist and homophobic, it seems karma is out to get him after a series of unfortunate events brings to light his crippled future. Finding no solution for a cure, Ron looks internationally for unapproved drugs for him to try. Going against FDA guidelines, Woodruff seeks to find the cure to his quickly impending death before he and many others succumb to the disease. Smuggling a cocktail of vitamins and pills, he pretends to be a Priest, a pilot and many other disguises in order to grow his Dallas Buyers Club (a subscription service alternative to the expensive and unproved medicine prescribed by hospitals). These smuggling scenes are both comical and tense as he fully accepts that if he can’t carry over the medication, he will die.
The film highlights the reckless abandon as to how the businesses and hospitals are interlinked and ashamedly, their hands tied – they will not care about how effective the drug is, only to how much money it’ll make. The unapproved cancer drug, AZT was re-assigned to treat HIV sufferers but was later on discovered to kill every cell it came into contact with due to the high dosage. The ethics of HIV treatment was hurriedly rushed in order to have at least something out there, no matter how effective it was. The film focuses not just on Woodruff’s struggle for life but also his desperate up-hill battle against the government for the approval of his alternative medicine. Watching the endearing Jennifer Garner as the nurse, helpless to improve the lives of many, has to accept that she can only make things comfortable as another affected dies with a morphine drip and slips away.
Ron’s plight truly seeks compassion from the audience; an otherwise selfish man seeking to end the corporate hegemony over hospitals in order to improve millions of lives. In modern days, we have still yet to see a conventional cure to this disease but Woodruff’s battle highlights that we have taken massive strides to reach the end goal of a worldwide vaccine.