When he is diagnosed with HIV, Ron Woodroof works around the system to get the drugs that he needs to survive. While doing so, he realises that he is not the only one who has found himself outside the system, and he struggles to help others.
By now, we have all seen the images of a gaunt and wasted Matthew McConaughey; a testament to the lengths that he went to for his role in Dallas Buyers Club. As Ron, McConaughey captures the feeling of many people when AIDS and HIV first found their way into our consciousness; fear, rage and yet more fear. As the film goes on, however, McConaughey allows Ron to evolve into a tenacious and caring man who still carries his prejudices on his sleeve, but does so as a defence mechanism. The burden of the film lies with McConaughey, and he carries it with a relatable grace.
Jared Leto also transformed himself for his role as Rayon, and like McConaughey, moves through the film with grace and ease. Leto is both flamboyant and vulnerable as he fights his corner, and battles against Ron’s prejudices. Jennifer Garner reunites with her Ghosts of Girlfriends Past co-star and gives a gentle and warm performance as a doctor who is as limited by the law as her patients are.
Based on a true story, Dallas Buyers Club deals with racism, sexism and homophobia all at the same time, and gives us a hero who is both scoundrel and carer. Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack’s screenplay excels in the relationship between Woodroof and those around him, but stumbles in the second half of the film as our lead character changes from victim to activist. Events happen a little too fast, as the film tries to navigate the social, medical and political changes that AIDS brought with it, but the relationship between Rayon and Woodroof binds the film together.
Director Jean-Marc Vallée has had a rather varied career so far, having brought us both The Young Victoria and Café De Flore in recent years. The strength of the film lies with the performances he has drawn from his actors, but it seems that Vallée was so caught up with trying to make the charcters feel real, that his focus on the story and pacing fell slightly by the wayside.
Dallas Buyers Club is a film that entirely depends on the strong, tenacious and moving performances from McConaughey, Leto and Garner. There is little doubt that McConaughey and Leto deserve all the praise being heaped upon them, as it is around them that the film revolves, but muddled pacing and a tendency to skim over aspects of the story mean that Dallas Buyers Club lacks the punch that could have made it a truly great film.