By Mike Dyer, Senior Writer
What would you do if you were told you had 30 days to live? Would you party like it was 1999, or would you spend time with friends and family? Would you let go of everything you owned, or would you choose to take control or your own destiny. “Dallas Buyers Club” is the story of a man who did all those things when placed in that scenario and how he eventually gained self-respect in the process.
“Dallas Buyers Club” is based on the real life story of Ron Woodroof (Mathew McConaughey), an electrician and rodeo cowboy, who after a wild night of partying wakes up in the hospital. There Dr. Sevard (Denis O’Hare) and Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner) inform Woodroof that he is HIV positive and given his overall heath the doctors give him 30 days to live. Woodroof refuses to believe this and storms out of the hospital saying “I prefer to die with my boots on.” After initially seeking some AZT, the only drug FDA approved for clinical testing of AIDS, Woodroof travels to Mexico to meet with a Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne). Vass informs Woodroof of the dangers of AZT and “prescribes” him some meds that have not been approved for consumption in the United States. After Woodroof starts to see improvement in his health, he starts bringing them across the border in bulk and selling them to other AIDS victims. When the DEA (Drug Informent Agency) gets wind of Woodroof’s operation, they try to shut him down. With the help of fellow AIDS sufferer Rayon (Jared Leto), Woodroof finds a loophole in the DEA’s policy and sets up the “Dallas Buyers Club”. For $400 a month members get unlimited meds that Woodroof imports from other countries. When the club starts to get a huge following the Woodroof becomes a bit of a local hero to the local AIDS sufferers and the gay community, thus Woodroof’s homophobia begins to fade as his self-respect begins to grow.
“Dallas Buyers Club” was directed by “Jean-Marc Vallée” who utilizes a handheld, one camera approach that is complimented with natural lighting; giving the film a gritty, naturalistic approach. Taking place in the mid to late 1980s, the set dressings speak of the period before cell phones and the internet, but when you consider how the film deals with an issue that is still present to this day the film has a modern feel.. While the cinematography and setting establish a tone, this film is defined by its standout acting. Mathew McConaughey and Jared Leto lead the cast in performances that recently earned both actors Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. Both McConaughey and Leto lost a considerable amount of weight to give realism to their characters. McConaughey’s performance dissolves the stereotype that Hollywood has put on him for years as he captures the essence of a man whose life begins to cave in because of bad decisions. However, it is Leto’s performance that is truly memorable, even providing comedic relief in places. Jennifer Garner proves enjoyable as she is able to
provide the audience with a sympathetic voice in the role of Dr. Eve Saks.
Behind the Oscar worthy performance and the realistic setting is a story about facing the consequences of our actions and how even in our darkest moments there is still promise in possibility. If Ron Woodroof was alive today the cowboy electrician would probably sum up his journey like this: Sometimes life will deal you a bad hand, but if you know how to play your cards you can make the play of a lifetime. In what would be anyone’s darkest day, Woodroof refused to take no for an answer and with the help of some unlikely allies provided a voice for millions of AIDS sufferers around the world. What “Dallas Buyers Club” provides is a channel to make sure that voice still echoes to this day and one that won’t go quietly.