Friday, 28 February 2014

Everyone Has AIDS

This awards season has brought a lot of intimate, personal stories, and many of them from history. Today we dive back only a few decades to a story that speaks of something extremely important. But how well does it do it? This is Dallas Buyers Club.

Ron (Matthew McConaughey) is just your average rodeo bull riding electrician. The kind of guy that hires hookers to bang him behind the gates of the bull ring after he has done his dealings as a bookie, but before he goes to drink and snort cocaine with his friends. The normal. One day, however, that all changes when he is diagnosed as HIV positive - the disease of 'faggots' - saying he only has thirty days to live, and so naturally his homophobic friends abandon him. The doctors cannot give him AZT, the medicine he really wants as it is only in the trial stages, so he finds a way around the system after meeting a Mexican doctor, Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne). Teaming up with transsexual Rayon (Jared Leto), Ron begins to smuggle in drugs to help himself, but eventually realises he is not the only one who needs help. He sets up a system for other AIDS suffers, despite arguments from Dr. Sevard (David O'Hare) and Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), and calls it the Dallas Buyers Club.

The title 'Hugs and Drugs' did not test well with audiences.

McConaughey, an actor whose name, when attached to a movie, meant you should probably avoid whatever the project was. Here he is now with an Academy Award nomination. (He's also in the nominated The Wolf of Wall Street.) Why? Because he is fantastic. As Ron, McConaughey shows that there is a lot of power in his performance. Unlike some recent performances that leave subtlety in the past and prefer the explicit, McConaughey understands Ron and all he is feeling, from the desperation for suitable medicine, to the need to help others, to the fear of death, McConaughey gets it right. But the real stand out is Leto. As transsexual Rayon, Leto is completely unrecognisable. He is completely absorbed in his role and sucks the audience in too. A loving, and loveable character, with the social skills that Ron fails to possess in the gay community, Leto's Reyon is easily one of the finest performances of the year. He is very similar to the famous Angel, from the musical Rent. The two leads hold the film, their supporting cast to little to add much. Fortunately, the pair at the front need little help.

That security man is missing the point.

A cleverly constructed tale of the good and bad sides of humanity. The darkness that is how much can be achieved when desperation is the driving force, but also the hope that comes with that. One man finds a solution for his problem and unlike the money-centric companies that control the medicine, he tries to make a difference. With some of the best editing of the year, the film never feels like the two hour runtime that it is and along with such an engaging script and fantastic direction from Jean-Marc Vallée, Dallas Buyers Club is an important story of struggling with the American healthcare system. It is, as some other critics have stated, possibly being told too late to pack the punch it could have 20 years ago, but it is still an inspirational tale. 

A story that has a lot of everything. Some happy bits, some sad bits, some bits that will make you angry. It is a tale that shows the dangers of greed and hate and the benefits of caring for others. 

Best Bit? Ron dons a priest outfit as he smuggles drugs across the border from Mexico to the USA. He's stopped. Perhaps it is our sympathetic relationship with Ron, but c'mon. Who stops a priest?

(Note: I've seen claims that the only reason McConaughey is getting attention is because he lost a lot of weight. I've not spoken about his weight loss because, whilst it advances his character, he is truly talented too.)

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