Film Review: Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club is an engrossing and thought-provoking drama with great performances from its cast.

In Dallas, 1985, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof is diagnosed with HIV. Given only a short time to live, Ron is desperate to get his hands on new medication that is in the testing stage. When this proves difficult to obtain, Ron takes matters into his own hands…

Based on real events, Jean-Marc Valleé’s Dallas Buyers Club illustrates an important but little-known struggle in the history of Aids treatment. However the triumph of Dallas Buyers Club is its character study.

At its core, Dallas Buyers Club is a characters study of protagonist Ron Woodroof. What makes the film absorbing is the fact that the character is multi-faceted and believable. Viewers are invited to sympathise with the character given his diagnosis, yet also be troubled by the views he espouses. Woodroof exudes charm in some contexts, whilst also being painted as the frustrated victim.

Writers Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack paint their characters and circumstances in realistic hues. In the background there is the political story of access Aids patients had to treatment in the 1980s, and the FDA procedures. As Dallas Buyers Club progresses, there is a shift in emphasis on the political. This works reasonably well as the protagonist is still at the heart of the action and the historical context provides food for thought.

Matthew McConaughey offers perhaps the strongest performance of his career as Ron Woodroof. Although the physical transformation is eye-catching, McConaughey delivers a comprehensively convincing performance. Jared Leto is also utterly superb as Rayon, with the physical transformation again being matched with a truly authentic portrayal. Jennifer Garner provides good support as Eve.

Given its subject matter, Dallas Buyers Club could have easily descended into cliched sentimentality. Instead, director Valleé keeps the tone steady. Dallas Buyers Club is a better film for it.