Dallas Buyers Club opens with a scene of a coked up Ron Woodroof fucking a pair of trailer park girls under the bleachers of a Rodeo. His red-rimmed eyes staring at the cowboy unsuccessfully trying to hang on to the bull’s vigorous gyrations. The sight his eyes is set on might just be an illustration of Ron’s own life. Living dangerously. And losing.
Just like the 2012 film, How to Survive a Plague, it shows how individuals had to fight for survival in the early days of the AIDS virus. Both show how lucky we are to live in this time, when our predecessors’ fights led to the advancements we–or the affected–are enjoying today. The two films show just how the sick had to fight for their lives, fighting bureaucratic and obviously compromised government bodies to get the help they needed.
Dallas Buyers Club also shows the change in attitude towards AIDS, homosexuals initially regarded as only susceptible to. Showing the marginalization that Ron has to go through after word of his infection spreads. Interestingly, spread by one of his fuck-mates. You’d think he would want to get tested himself considering they’ve been getting with the same women. But he believes that fact that he’s not gay absolves him from risk.
Mathew McConaughey, once voted The Sexiest Man Alive, is almost unrecognizable in the lead role in what are meant to be his last 30 days alive. So is his partner in the fight, Jared Leto’s Rayon, who plays a transsexual survivor.
The film chooses to concentrate on Ron’s own life without bringing any loved ones we’d expect he’d want to live for. The real Ron Woodroof, apparently, had an ex-wife and child but the film shows not a single relation of his. It paints Ron as a lone survivor living for no one but himself, even at some point saying, “Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting a life I ain’t got time to live.”
Ron takes charge of his life and sets out to find a cure, or sustenance at least. “There ain’t nothing out there that can kill Ron Woodroof in 30 days,” he declares as a rebuttal to the ‘death sentence’ issued by a doctor. He does his own research on the disease and starts one of many buyers’ clubs spread around the country. He does whatever it takes smuggle in medicine that’s working in other countries but not approved in his own.
Any other filmmaker would be enticed to make a martyr out of Ron, a man whose predicament changes his view of life and inspires him to help others. But Ron never loses his hustler core, as can be seen in one of the opening scenes where he does anything to preserve a bet he lost. Without an ounce of empathy for those suffering the same disease as him, he turns away the sick for the simple reason that they do not have money to join the Dallas Buyers Club. However, the fact that he provides safer alternatives makes him an unlikely saviour and doctor for the affected in Dallas, with advice like “watch what you eat and who you eat” to go with the subscription.
The montages of his travels also offer a glimpse of pre-9/11 air travel in a way other films haven’t really shown, the lax in airport security and the un-thoroughness of the whole process. The only hiccups he comes across are the occasional FDA busts.
Apparently, Woodroof’s real sister was disappointed with the film’s initial casting of Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling and McConaughey’s co-star on True Detective, Woody Harrelson, because they didn’t share the same traits as him. It’s easy to see why McConaughey was a good choice. Save for the weight, the man who accepted the Oscar for this role is the same one who was on screen. And it’s the same man we saw on Mud and the one on True Detective, only less philosophical, “That shit is purer than a preacher daughter’s pussy.”
One of the most impressive things about Dallas Buyers Club is how the director manages to make Woodroof likeable despite the sexism, recklessness and homophobia. Another is the look he achieves and talent he commanded despite the budget. For such a big name cast (also starring Jennifer Garner and Steve Zahn, who looks more like Woodroof than McConaughey), the film was made for pretty cheap. Only $5 million.
There’s a very fancy-looking globe-trotting montage, which looks like it took up the entire budget. But most impressive is the makeup allocation. Only $250. Since the film was shot over a 28-day period, they didn’t have time for the actors to appropriately lose weight for different scenes, and it all had to be faked with makeup. So, the scenes where McConaughey looks skinnier with his cheek bones jutting out of his face, that was hand-drawn. And Robin Mathews and Adruitha Lee’s efforts were rewarded with an Oscar for the achievement.