Film Review: Dallas Buyers Club

At this point, I’m about 99% convinced that, somewhere around 2011, Matthew McConaughey suffered a horrific near-death experience (probably at a beach or while crafting his abs). During his near-death experience, his life flashed before his eyes and he realized that, when he died, he would solely be remembered as the hot dude that was in Fool’s Gold. The experience must have opened his eyes; over the past couple years, McConaughey has been aggressively attempting to right past career-path wrongs, all culminating in a 2012 Oscar win for Best Actor.Dallas Buyers Club

The movie he won for is the one I’m discussing today, Dallas Buyers Club. The film, based on a true story, is about Ron Woodward, a homophobic Texan diagnosed with HIV in 1985. Told he has 30 days to live, he first starts illegally obtaining experimental medication AZT. Soon, he makes his way to Mexico, and finds alternative medicines (ones not approved by the FDA) that keep him alive much more effectively. Back in Texas, he starts the Dallas Buyers Club, selling the foreign drugs to HIV patients to the chagrin of the FDA and the local hospital.


The main thing you should know about Dallas Buyers Club is that the acting performances are the true reason you should watch it. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto (playing a transsexual woman also diagnosed with AIDS) both give tour-de-force performances very much deserving of the Oscars they received. Both steal every scene they’re in, and when they’re together, their charm is pretty much unstoppable. Poor Jennifer Garner just looks bad in comparison, even though she’s far from it.

So if you’re generally unappreciative of good acting, Dallas Buyers Club might not be for you. But the plot is engrossing enough that you’ll still probably have a good time. The story of Ron Woodward is great film material (apparently, writer Craig Borten has been trying to get this film made since the mid-1990s), and the transformation of his character from a homophobic prick to a champion of medical rights makes for great, inspiring cinema. Add in a healthy dose of “screw-the-government” sentiment, and you’ve got a recipe for success in my book.

Another applause-worthy decision of director Jean-Marc Vallée is the film’s unwillingness to overplay the sentimentality of the story. The film is centered around young people dying from a horrible disease and, as such, contains many moments of heartbreak and raw emotion. But Vallée never cheapens these moments with soaring, orchestral string pieces or teary, cheesy monologues on the frailty of human life. Instead, he lets his actors’ performances speak for themselves, keeping the film more down-to-earth and realistic.

Any qualms I have with DBC are minor. The biggest one is the film’s portrayal of AZT; it’s shown throughout the film as a huge mistake and a toxic death trap for all who consume it. But AZT was quite effective in the ’80s for prolonging HIV patients’ life spans and is still used today as a treatment. The film’s damning of the medication makes it easier to paint the FDA and Dallas Mercy Hospital as villains, but it’s not quite medically accurate.

My opinion of the film is overwhelmingly positive, though, and I give it a whole-hearted recommendation. I hope whatever midlife crisis Matty McConaughey is going through continues for a while, because movie fans are definitely reaping the benefits.