Dallas Buyers Club

00:00 November 25, 2013
By: David Vicari
[Courtesy of Focus Features]

is an astounding masterpiece of heartbreak and compassion. It is one of the best movies to chronicle the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.

Based on a true story, the movie takes place in Dallas, Texas in 1985. Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is a racist, homophobic redneck. He drinks, smokes, does drugs and has lots of casual sex. When he goes to the hospital on a work related injury, his world is turned upside down as he is told by a doctor that he is HIV positive, and this is the mid-'80s where AIDS was erroneously considered just a "gay disease." He starts taking the drug AZT, which is only in the trial stages in the U.S.

Eventually, Ron fi nds himself in Mexico where he is introduced to alternative drugs for combating AIDS. These drugs, however, are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He smuggles them in to the U.S. and begins selling them to others who suffer from AIDS, and even takes on a business partner in HIV-positive transsexual drug addict Rayon (Jared Leto).

For this role of a man suffering from AIDS, McConaughey lost 38 pounds. His on-screen appearance is unsettling, for he looks horribly gaunt. Leto, as well, performs a jaw-dropping physical transformation, convincingly looking like a woman. Besides the actors startling physical transformations, they both deliver rich and complex performances. Leto has never been better. McConaughey plays a complex man. At fi rst, Woodroof was out for self preservation, and never even giving a thought to becoming a crusader for people with AIDS and taking on the medical establishment. Woodroof is rude and unlikable, but McConaughey makes him human, which makes us care about his plight.

The weakest link is Jennifer Garner. Her performance, as a caring physician, is good, but the character isn't the most interesting, possibly because she isn't given that much screen time.

Dallas Buyers Club will defi nitely get some Academy Award nominations but it doesn't come off as an "Oscar grab" movie the way Philadelphia (1993) did. Besides, DBC is a much better fi lm, subtler and actually earning its emotions. The feeling I get is that director Jean-Marc Vallée and his cast and crew were all passionate about this project and wanted to tell this story. It just so happens that they made of the year's best fi lms.

Sign Up!