“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.”
This quote embodies the fight that Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) deals with from the beginning of Dallas Buyers Club until its bittersweet ending. At the beginning, Ron drinks, smokes, cusses, and looks down on those he deems lesser than himself. He’s a scoundrel and loves it.After an electrical accident on the job, Ron is told in the hospital that he has contracted HIV, which without proper care could turn into full blown AIDS. As per his personality, Ron cusses the doctors out and bursts out, going into the arms of hookers and cocaine. But after weeks of dealing with the treatments, being abandoned by his friends, and trying to get medicine to help with his symptoms, Ron realizes that this fight is one that isn’t being won in America and goes to Mexico where he comes across a shipment of drugs that leads to the formation of the Dallas Buyers Club.
With the help of Rayon (Jared Leto), a transsexual with AIDS, Ron sets up a major business where he sets other AIDS patients who can’t afford the drugs being administered by the hospital with the medication that they need, and that Ron finds to work better.The chemistry between Rayon and Ron is central to the film. Rayon is everything that Ron used to look down on. He was even vein towards him when they first met in the hospital, calling him a “faggot” and making him sit on the edge of the bed so that they could play cards. Rayon represents the changes that Ron makes in his life. He started by cursing those below him and by the end he has embodied and accepted them. Trying to help them as much as he can, Ron makes an complete change and watching this is what makes this film special.
The moment that both the audience (and Rayon) know he’s changed is when they are in the grocery store. Rayon is picking out food that Ron continuously says is no good so he goes to put it back. While he is gone, one of Ron’s former friends comes up and begins to talk with Ron and see how he’s doing. Rayon comes back and the friend is stunned by him. Ron introduces him and tells him to shake his hand but the friend denies. Ron proceeds to put the guy in a headlock and forces him to do it.
This change from the Ron who wanted nothing to do with Rayon or even touch him has completely left the psyche of this new Ron who is on the forefront of helping those who he used to look down on. This is where this movie works best, when we as the audience are given the opportunity to see the transformation of this character into the end result.
McConaughey completely sells the role and the work that went into creating this man pays off. He carries the personality of Woodroof well and can make you either hate him or love him at times. There isn’t a question as to if he should get a Best Actor nomination because not only should he get the nomination but he should be a contender to win. Leto does a stand-up job and is one of the better performances of the year but never blew me away to make me want to hand him the award yet.The film never feels too preachy and hits the right chord of not being overly dramatic.
Director Jean-Marc Valee does a great job of putting the audience into the emotions and struggles of Woodroof through a fantastic use of editing and tight close-ups. But documenting this road towards redemption is where he does the best job as you grow to care about these characters and where they head.
Dallas Buyers Club is more than just bringing your attention to a very important time in our recent history, the AIDS epidemic, but also sheds light on the people that were struggling through it and trying to make it better for others. The characters make the film and the performances alone make this one of the year’s best films.