Film Review: DALLAS BUYER’S CLUB

Dallas Buyer’s Club (some spoilers, I think).
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee
Written by Craig Borten and Melissa Wallack
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn

A biopic is a genre of movie I have trouble loving. No matter how compelling the story, how worthy the subject, they all feel tied to telling a pre-ordained story and usually lack the sense of freedom and artfulness that makes a film first-rate. The DALLAS BUYER’S CLUB is better than most but still suffers from those issues.

Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) is an electrician in Dallas when he collapses and winds up in a hospital where he is told he has 30 days to live. He finds it impossible to believe he could have contracted AIDS when he is not gay. Public misperception in the early eighties was that it was a gay disease. And Woodroof is a promiscuous heterosexual male. But with such a short window of time, he quickly gets up to speed on his diagnosis, eventually rejecting the experimental drug he is given, then goes to Mexico where he is given a regimen that makes him feel better. Trouble ensues as he tries to bring these drugs (all natural and not outlawed) back to the U.S. That is basically the plot. A cat and mouse game with the FDA, the doctors, and the pharmaceutical companies that wants to control disease treatment to fatten their wallets.

McCouaughey is outstanding in the part, as is Jared Leto as his gay associate in the venture, but beyond these two performances the rest of the characters are so generically written and performed, it is hard to elevate this movie beyond the standard biopic. We learn little about McConaughey’s life other than his promiscuity. We certainly admire the man he becomes but since we know so little about the man he was, it is hard to really understand it.

I have admitted to a prejudice with biopics here so if you don’t share that, you may like it more than I did. But I still have to recommend it for the two outstanding performances.

Patti Abbott