Dallas Buyers Club (2013) Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée

In the last six months I've gone from being someone who irks away at the sight of Matthew McConaughey to being someone who gravitates towards anything that carries his name. This blog is just about in danger of turning into a McConaughey shrine...  I'm sorry for being so repetitive.
But it's hard for me to believe that the afore-mentioned dude did not win anything at the Golden Globes. Even harder to grasp that True Detective (the fantastic TV series from last year) did not win anything. Before I go into discussion about the Dallas Buyers Club, let me just spend a second more on the Golden Globes. I'm hoping that I can find the whole deal on-line and watch it, because I have developed an award gala addiction – it makes something boring actually really interesting. I cry with the winners you see. I'm also looking forward to seeing Julianne Moore's winning performance in Still Alice.  And I desperately need to see Boyhood. Just today I started watching Girls – finally, I know, but I am now catching up on something I feel I should have been championing in the first place (but was probably breastfeeding instead). Here's how Tina Fay and Amy Poehler opened the night:

Dallas Buyers Club begins with Ron (McConaughey), a bull-riding electrician with no style but a great taste for sex and drugs. He is sickly thin, unattractive due to his manner and his looks. He soon finds out he has AIDS. We find out that he is ignorant, afraid of gay people and only really cares for himself.  The era he is living in, the 1980s, comes across as nasty, ugly and hedonistic to no end. Not an empathy-inducing beginning. Later Ron's character is developed through the introduction of a female doctor Eve (played by the lovely Jennifer Garner) and with the appearance of Rayon (Jared Leto). Rayon, a transgendered AIDS patient becomes Ron's sidekick and a business partner. He is Ron's only friend when the heterosexual men bail on him completely after his diagnosis. Eve represents the medical treatment of AIDS in the 1980s, but she is also a possible love interest for Ron – keeping him strictly in the hetero field all through the film.

McConaughey as Ron
That is the problem with Dallas Buyers Club. It is a story chosen and told with the hetero-white-male-glasses on. As Ron descends into illness and into getting to know the community most afflicted by the virus, the movie is constantly jerking to make little adjustments for the hetero gaze. Jared Leto's Rayon is a beautiful character, but he falls into the most stereotypical transgender category ever. He even dies. I cannot help but wonder why the film-makers ended up telling the story of Ron Woodroof of all the 'true stories' they could have chosen from. Did it offer them a more convenient route? Is HIV and AIDS still more approachable to 'the general masses' in 2014 when a homophobe from Texas represents the illness? Are Ron's actions actually a sign of his selfishness as motivation for getting medicine for others came after he helped himself? Is he in any way an important man –even in the development of HIV/AIDS treatment history? The movie hung at the doorsteps of some interesting clubs, and meandered in the nearness of very fascinating people (whose gender identity was anything but straight) but the doors to those places and people stayed shut. That was disappointing. Still, Matthew McConaughey was great in his role. Dedication and all.

So My Lawyer Will Call Your Lawyer passed some landmarks towards the end of 2014. We've now posted over 300 entries/reviews to the site (!) We've just entered our 5th year of blogging here. I'd like to say the audience is growing, but it's pretty much stayed consistent (which is not enough). Around a third of our total readers so far come from the USA (making the USA the country that reads this site the most) and MLWCYL has now had something like a quarter of a million hits. The most popular post (by some considerable margin) is this one. Although the posts have certainly become less frequent since we started it (that first year was insane), I personally think the quality of posting has got better. One of our trends for the second half of 2014 seemed to be the movies or TV series which featured Matthew McConaughey. 2014 was to be the year where he was omnipresent in our lives as well as finally becoming an acting heavyweight. So it's possible we give a kiss goodbye to Matthew for awhile with the first review of 2015 on here, Dallas Buyers Club.

Leto & Mcconaughey get it on
At first Dallas Buyers Club seemed like it would be a more raunchy, even filthy take on Peckinpah's Junior Bonner (with a possible nod to the rodeo world of The Misfits). But the first five minutes of a movie can be deceptive and you've got to hang in there. Dallas Buyers Club is based on the true life of electrician, homophobe and alcoholic (not necessarily in that order) Ron Woodroof, brilliantly brought to vivid and expletive ridden life by McConaughey. Woodroof, a sexual being who likes to indulge in drug-taking and on feeling chronically ill visits the hospital and is diagnosed as having AIDS and barely a month to live. As this is set in the mid-1980's, AIDS/HIV was still an under-researched disease with a lot of misconceptions and phobia against those suffering from it. Woodroof doesn't accept that he has a month to live and finds alternative ways to treat himself and importantly keep himself alive (whilst being completely ostracized by friends and work colleagues). By smuggling drugs into the country he manages to find a combination of non-state approved remedies that pro-long and massively improve his health. Pretty soon he starts Dallas Buyers Club, an organization distributing his unauthorized treatments to other AIDS patients. The authorities intervene and Woodroof starts a campaign to make his treatments legally available, supported by activists and patients alike.

Cox and Garner add support
So the portents are good for a real-life drama of the radical Woodroof versus the awful lawful authorities (in this case the FDA). Sadly despite a good opening half an hour, Dallas Buyers Club comes across as a little Erin Brockovich lite. The film becomes episodic and in some ways impersonal with more detailed technical issues as opposed to focussing on some of the (fictional) relationships that surrounded Woodroof. Rayon (Jared Leto) and Dr. Eve Sacks (Jennifer Garner) are both fictional characters that help possibly soften our perception of Woodroof. He is especially homophobic throughout the film and it feels his character begrudgingly becomes a doyen of the gay community, his relationship with transgender Rayon certainly changes his attitudes over time. The performances are the main thing that hold Dallas Buyers Club together and make it just about more than watchable. Nice touches are a small role for Deerhunter's Bradford Cox and Rayon's love for Marc Bolan which adds much T.Rex magnificence to the soundtrack. With a bit more edge and emotional interaction between the characters (you really are egging on Woodroof to kiss at least one of Rayon or Dr.Sacks) Dallas Buyers Club could have been so much better.


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