Review by-Jarrett Leahy
Set in the Mid 80’s during the height of the AIDS epidemic, Dallas Buyers Club tells the story of Ron Woodroof, a boozing, homophobic electrician/bull rider who is informed that his womanizing lifestyle has led to his contracting the HIV virus and is given thirty days to live. Ostracized by bigoted friends and resolute in his desire to prove the doctors wrong, Woodroof wanders across the border to Mexico, determined to find drugs that can help him survive. Here he is introduced to a bevy of helpful medicines unavailable in the US because they have not yet been approved by the FDA. Always looking to make a buck, Woodroof begins smuggling these unapproved drugs across the border with hopes of selling to desperate AIDS patients.
Dallas Buyers Club offers two of the best performances of 2013. The commitment Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto brought to their roles has been well documented, losing a combined 77 pounds to more accurately portray patients suffering from the AIDS virus. McConaughey, known more for his surfer guy persona and over abundance of romantic comedy roles during the early part of his career, has had an unprecedented resurgence these last few years. That resurgence has culminated with this raw, brutally honest and gifted portrayal of Ron Woodroof, a performance earning him his first Academy award nomination. But, as impressive as McConaughey is, it is Jared Leto who steals the show. Leto’s portrayal of Rayon, a transsexual suffering from AIDS, is the best acting performance of 2013, leading or supporting, male or female. That was my initial opinion when I saw Dallas Buyers Club back in December, and revisiting the film two months later has only strengthened my belief. Historically, our society’s treatment of transgender individuals has been less than stellar. What Leto was able to bring to the character of Rayon is a humanizing quality. We accept him for who he is and feel the pain and fear he faces as he struggles with both his addiction and the awful effects of the AIDS virus. Leto has rightfully swept all the major Supporting Actor awards leading up to the Oscars, and barring a major upset should be awarded the gold statuette come the night of March 2nd.
I can’t stress enough the importance of supporting smaller films like this one. Hollywood studios have become so concerned about the almighty dollar that fewer and fewer are taking chances with smaller independent films that they deem too risky. The script for Dallas Buyers Club was passed over for almost 20 years because no studio wanted to take a chance on it. And if it wasn’t for Matthew McConaughey making it a personal passion project, this gripping and important story may still be sitting on the shelf. Instead, with only a 25-day shooting schedule and a $5.5 million budget (with money scrounged from all over, including Truth Chemical, a Houston-based fertilizer company), a group of determined and very talented artists were able to create a film now nominated for six Academy awards including Best Motion Picture of the Year.