The Review: Bull rider Ron Woodruff waits in the wooden wings for his shot to break the eight second record, and as he waits, he has two young temptresses in the shadows, screwing them alternately. He peers through the wooden slats at the current rider, who’s having his ass kicked by the bull. Ron finishes and clasps his hands together, ready for the challenge.
The real challenge comes a day after the bull ride. An electrician by day, Ron receives a shock that lands him in hospital. The doctors deliver another nasty shock.
It’s difficult to know if this opening sequence is precisely the moment Ron acquired HIV – worse still, might this have been an occasion where he’s passed it on. We may never know.
Set in 1985 Dallas, Texas this extraordinary film charts the story of Woodruff’s realisation, character dismantling disease; a time when rednecks like Woodruff and, indeed, society at large thought the AIDS virus to be exclusively passed around by homosexuals and sharing of needles. When a redneck is hit by this news, it has major repercussions with his friends and his community. His trailer home is daubed “faggot blood” as he’s out trying to steal the wonder drug drug AZT.
Dallas Buyer’s Club could easily play as a companion piece to How to Survive a Plague – a documentary from 2013 that takes the same route regarding AZT; a drug, it transpires, that is deeply toxic, but a perfect antidote to big pharma’s slack response to the ever growing epidemic.
Ron is played by Matthew McConaughey – it must be said, with fierce career-defining gusto – having clearly lost as much weight as Cristian Bale did for The Machinist. He’s a charming, passionate and humorous fellow dealt an exceptionally shitty hand by fate; a doomed slap in the face that could, unbeknownst to anyone who knew him at the time, affect absolutely anyone. In his quest for acquiring AZT illegally, he’s given the heads up by an orderly of a struck-off doctor in Mexico who’s set up shop trying anything to find ailment-prohibiting drugs with limited success. Ron takes a big risk smuggling these back to Dallas to start The Club of the title; $400 per month membership for real results in halting the AIDS process. And all of this is a true story.
Dallas Buyer’s Club is a masterpiece. Directed by relative unknown Jean-Marc Vallée, and written by newcomers Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, the movie packs a hell of an emotional wallop. It’s gloriously understated in its direction and blissfully subtle in all the right places. The script is superb and stuffs so much plot into its perfectly reasonable 110 minute run-time. McConaughey – for all his previous romcom nonsense here is a revelation; a bold, daring middle-finger to the stereotypes of old; it’d be curious to see how the fans of his previous work take to a story like this. Especially when he happens across the paths of pre-op transvestite Rayon; a drug-taking wild-at-heart liberal who sets up the club with him.
Rayon is played by Jared Leto and Leto in this movie is a revelation; his performance is Earth-shatteringly astonishing. If ever he found work drying up on the silver screen, then he could easily migrate to drag/stage work anywhere in the world. But beyond the make-up and behind the frilly exterior beats the heart of a truly dismantled, beautiful monster. Leto turns in the performance of a lifetime as Rayon; at once sweet and endearing, and yet wild and rambunctious on his collision course to the inevitable with his drug use. If Leto doesn’t win Best Supporting Actor this year the Oscars, it’d be a crime; possible a crime as big as the FDA committed two decades ago in halting a perfectly legal, comfortable, non-toxic drug to help alleviate the HIV/AIDS sufferer’s ailments.
And so, with that – a mere three days in to 2014 – we have the best film of the year so far <!> in Dallas Buyer’s Club; a film so taut, stuffed to the gills with career-best performances in a movie that will have you laughing beer through your nose and socking you in the stomach and heart alternately.
It is a masterpiece and you absolutely must check it out, if, for no other reason, than to marvel at Jared Leto and Matthew McCounaghey’s performance. Oh, who am I kidding, you’ll be marveling at EVERYONE’S performance – on and off screen. It’s absolutely brilliant
Reviewed By: Andrew MacKay
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