Dallas Buyers Club (2013) is a biographical drama taking place during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. The film centers around Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), a straight victim of HIV who begins to smuggle medications into the United States to more effectively treat symptoms of HIV and AIDS.
The film is incredible, both a cunning character story with an incredible transformation and an educational tool for shining insight on the AIDS epidemic. Woodruff, brilliantly portrayed by McConaughey, becomes an inspirational activist for the very population he used to detest. Woodruff gets his HIV diagnosis soon after the film begins and is told he will only live 30 more days. The film keeps track of time, by inserting time stamps in between scenes — “Day 1, “Day 2”, etc. In the earlier days, Woodroof goes through stages of grief, drowning himself in liquor, considering suicide, but ultimately coming to terms with his diagnosis. As the days tick by, he makes a change and pursues survival, and as more and more days pass by, the emotional attachment to Woodruff grows, and before long, Day 30 has come and gone followed by several months.
McConaughey gives an incredible performance as Ron Woodroof. He lost 47 lbs to portray the AIDS victim. His appearance was striking, especially knowing the buff man that he is, but his performance was even more poignant. He starts off as a macho, homophobic Dallas man, who snorts cocaine and fucks women constantly. He reacts aggressively after being diagnosed with HIV, feeling a threat to his masculinity. Once he researches the disease, he begins to understand that there’s more to HIV than the “gay unknown”. McConaughey is impeccable as the harsh, macho Southern man, which makes his transformation throughout the film the more spectacular. He goes from one end of the spectrum, disgusted by the thought of a homosexual talking or touching him, to embracing not just a business partner but a friend with sincere understanding and affection. McConaughey gives a performance that I honestly never expected from him, after his string of romantic comedies, but I was incredibly moved by his performance. He goes after every detail, every nuance, to give a stunningly whole performance, much deserving of the Golden Globe and much deserving of an Oscar.
Jared Leto, as the transgender woman Rayon, also gives an incredible performance. Leto is an insanely talented man, who goes long stretches in between acting gigs yet nails it every time. His portrayal of Rayon is sensitive yet raw, exuding an air of confidence and frail sexiness. He also lost weight for this film, over 30 lbs, which provided for a frightening scene towards the end of the film. His character is one of disappointment and freedom. A moving scene occurs when Rayon dresses up in men’s clothes, as Raymond, to speak with her father. Up to that point, Rayon always seemed free and independent, unmoved by what anyone else thought about her — but then she meets her father, confronts her mortality and disappointment, and we realize that we all have our own baggage. Leto’s portrayal of Rayon was engaging and universally identifiable — a feat in itself. Whether you’re gay, straight, transgender, etc, everyone can understand what it’s like to fall short of expectations. What Rayon does is what everybody wishes they could do in x-circumstance: rise above it and embrace yourself. Leto completely embodies Rayon, artfully weaving together a character that’s both triumphant and flawed, strong enough to live life and scared to let it go. McConaughey and Leto both very well could walk away with Oscars this weekend for their incredible work.
Dallas Buyers Club is over twenty years in the making. Screenwriter Craig Borten interviewed the real Woodroof before he died in 1992. Over twenty years later, all the elements finally came together to create this incredible film. Not the typical hero, Woodroof is an inspiration for how people actually can change. From aggressive homophobe to activist, Woodroof fights all odds in a city not particularly itching to help out. This character study will encourage individuals to look inside and confront our own personal battles.