‘Dallas Buyers Club’ deftly shows nature of humanity
“Dallas Buyers Club” had a 25-day shoot with a minimal lighting setup and managed to prove that minimalistic filmmaking, technically speaking, could be just as gorgeous and engaging as a technically complicated piece.
In “Dallas Buyers Club,” Matthew McConaughey portrays real-life Ron Woodroof, a chain-smoking, racist, homophobic electrician who gets cheap thrills riding bulls. After having unprotected sex, Woodroof discovers that he is HIV positive. Woodroof eventually reveals his disease to friends; they respond with hateful homophobic slurs and disown him. Woodroof is no pushover and refuses to go down without a fight; he embraces drugs that are not approved by the FDA. This leads to a profitable business model in which Woodroof smuggles in the unapproved drugs and sells them to HIVpositive individuals.
This film works well, because it shows the nature of humanity and how our motivations can lead to surprising personal discoveries. Don’t misunderstand “Dallas Buyers Club” as a film about the rise of simply an HIV advocate. Woodroof was originally in this for people’s money; he had little respect for the homosexual community originally that primarily was HIV positive. Director Jean- Marc Vallee and screenwriters Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack have both visually and emotionally told a story that is tonally about the nature of how sometimes the path to change can be sleazy.
Matthew McConaughey brings to Woodroof a much needed likability, especially earlier in the film, because his hateful nature makes him a tough sell as a protagonist. Later in the film Woodroof embraces the community as a cash grab, another negative action that should further our hate for this individual; however, this business endeavor does finally lead to his embrace of a community he first did not understand. McConaughey presents a somewhat uncomfortably humorous performance with his bigotry, but as the film progresses we realize that the tragic figure had multiple personal layers.
For the role of Woodroof, McConaughey dropped a lot of weight and never has he looked so gaunt and ghost-like, but that loss is only a piece of his interpretation of a real man. His bigoted behavior is just as important to the portrayal as is his emotional evolution when he meets Rayon played by the brilliant Jared Leto.
This is Leto’s first film in five years and he has come back in a big way. Rayon is a transgender HIV-positive character based on many individuals that Woodroof encountered. When Woodroof first meets Rayon he is taken aback in a horrified way by her, but when he discovers that Rayon is his in into the gay community as salesman then he is forced to fall in with her. Leto brings a natural humor to a realistic story with a special sassiness that never comes off as fake or overly rehearsed. Leto took inspiration from transgender individuals he surrounded himself with and committed to the role even when the cameras stopped rolling.
“Dallas Buyers Club” is easily one of the best pictures of the year, but the roles by McConaughey and Leto are what stand out even in one of the most stacked awards seasons in recent years. “Dallas Buyers Club” will make some uncomfortable, the same way Woodroof was, but ideally by the end those individuals will learn to be open-minded. That is the true nature of humanity.