Dear Dallas Buyers Club,
What is about unsavory characters in film? Or even unsavory films with character? I have yet to figure it out but one thing is abundantly clear when I met you – you are one or the other!
I mean, it has nothing to do with the fact that you open up with our protagonist quick-fucking some rodeo groupie under the bleachers or stiffing a bunch of good old boys on a bad bet. Well, actually it has to do with that and a hundred other things. Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, who turns in a career performance and is a best actor Oscar shoe-in, is our scumbag, a hard living, redneck racist with a deep seated homophobic ideology. As the film has me quickly stumble around this two-bit rodeo wanna-be’s train-wreck life, the pace of things hardly gives you enough time to realize you don’t want anything to do with this piece of shit before it gets interesting as a doctor informs him at one of many ER visits that he has HIV and AIDS and that he should put his affairs in order because he has about 30 days left.
That’s right, suddenly I am intrigued. But more than that, I know I am watching something definitively special. Before I know it I am watching him go through all the intense angst and denial and will to fight not as anything remotely resembling Matthew, but as the living breathing, cadaver-like visage of the tough as old leather rail thin cowboy. The physical and emotional transformation Matthew achieves is the Everest of acting and only attained by the few like Deniro, Nick Cage, Christian Bale or Charlize Theron.
As Ron tries to figure out what to do about his affliction, he hustles the early AZT trials and while getting worse, he embarks on an unintended battle with the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies after his visit to a Mexico clinic in 1986. Along the way he finds a persuasive but troubled cross dressing partner Rayon, (handled by another supporting Oscar shoe-in, Jared Leto,) that plugs him into the HIV community at large as he continues his search for alternative treatments that helped establish a way for him to get the substances he sought while affording help to fellow HIV-positive people that could join the club for access to his supplies.
As he loop-holes the FDA at every turn for quite a while, he helps many of the people he once disdained and becomes an unsavory character – with character! Its an astonishing journey that doesn’t make Ron a saint or any more noble than he was before as a stereotypical redneck, racist, homophobe. But he is less of one and he has empathy for the first time in his life and those around him know it for the huge leap that it is for him.
It’s this journey and all the good that he does and the human that occasionally peeks out from inside him that makes this film a modern character masterpiece and one of the finest films of the year.
Yet, that is not all. Matthew McConaughey takes another large step into rarified space as an actor for his generation not only for this film but for Mud from earlier in the year, which is equally as award worthy and also stands as a modern masterpiece as well. All hail the mighty Matthew and I look forward to whatever you pour your passion into next!
With deep appreciation