Dallas Buying ClubThe Process of Living

Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn and Denis O'Hare
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Scriptwriters: Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
Composer: Danny Elfman
Focus Features
Rating: R with adult themes
Running Length: 117 minutes

Dallas Buyers Club was one of several "clubs" in the U.S. in the 1980's that used unconventional medication to treat the HIV-virus. This film centers on Ron Woodroof (played by Matthew McConaughey), who was diagnosed as being HIV-positive without knowing how he got the virus. The film is a story of fighting to live, but having to buck the system at the same time. This is becoming a familiar theme, with medicine available elsewhere but unavailable to the person ill in the U.S.

We begin with Ron having a lingering cough, but keeps on smoking and drinking. Weight loss doesn't seem to concern anyone and Ron even manages to be a bull rider at a rodeo. His brother, Tuck, a police officer (played by Steve Zahn) hovers over him, but has his own problems taking care of their father. When Ron passes out and is examined in a hospital, the news is broken to him. "You are HIV-positive." Ron goes into a rage and refuses to believe it. This is a death sentence he won't accept. From now on, there will be two doctors attending him and each has a different viewpoint on treatment. There is Dr. Saks (Jennifer Garner) who is cautious, but willing to look at alternatives, and Dr. Sevard (Denis O'Hare) who says it is his way or no way. His announcement to Ron is, "Your T-cell rate is 9 and the normal is 500. You should be dead."

In the hospital, Ron meets Rayon (very well played by Jared Leto) a transvestite who is also being treated. Rayon tries to be a friend, but Ron will have none of it. Through the rest of the film, we see Ron trying various conventional treatments and none work, so he goes to Mexico for homeopathic supplements and other drugs not available or approved in the U. S., which do seem to work. He is healthier and the T-cell count is going up. Trouble is, the FDA (shown as a bully organization) wants to shut down natural supplements/anti-virals in favor of large doses of FDA-approved AZT, which is actually harming patients and is $10,000 a year. There is an investigation and trial that focuses on the right of an individual patient to decide what they want as a form of treatment for their illness. Ron forms a "club" (similar to several around the U.S. at that time) in which $400 monthly is paid as dues and then you get the brought-from-around-the-world-anyway-possible drugs that are helping HIV-positive patients. They are available, but the U.S. won't allow them here. This plays out like The Perils of Pauline in that every time Ron thinks of a solution, the FDA is right behind him ready to close everything down. All the while, Ron has friends leaving him because he is busy. This is a lonely existence.

Dallas Buyers Club is an intense film, with hospital scenes, illness scenes, sexually themed scenes and raw language as people are driven to desperation to survive. Matthew McConaughey lost a great deal of weight to play the role of Ron Woodroof and at times, he is unrecognizable, as is Jared Leto in the role of Rayon. Both men in the film can be antagonistic to each other and yet they need each other to survive. Jennifer Garner, as the sympathetic Dr. Saks, gives a quietly effective performance, while on the other hand, Denis O'Hare as the go-by-the-rule book, Dr. Sevard, would have people arrested. This is gritty filming as the audience sees the other side of trying to obtain medication that is available, but expensive, or not available here but elsewhere. This was in the 1980's and have things changed since then? Sometimes, it seems not at all.

Doctors are supposed to help but call the police. Neighbors you don't know turn out to be the ones who help you. This is life and Ron Woodroof wants to live it to the fullest. He is counting the days past the original 30 he was given. 50, 100, 300, 600 and he was still going. A surprise for the medical profession. Dallas Buyers Club shows you the gritty side of life and the under side of pharmaceuticals, where money rules.


Copyright 2013 Marie Asner

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