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Daily News: Disease

Exceptional 'Buyers Club' easy sell


Wichita_Falls

02-03-14

Jan. 31--One of the better films of 2013, "Dallas Buyers Club" tells the real-life story of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) and his struggle against HIV/AIDS. The film recounts his battles against the medical community and Federal Drug Administration in securing drugs, which he could use, and sell, to battle it.

"Dallas Buyers Club" is an exceptional movie, not only for its taut storyline but also for its outstanding performances, immediate cinematography and for how it re-creates the mood and causes of the medical tragedy. This film returned me to the Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs areas of Dallas (where I lived in 1989). It was painful to remember this period, when I met so many talented individuals in the city's arts and music communities, only to watch them waste away and die from the disease.

The film starts in 1985 with loud redneck and virulent homophobe Woodroof, a too-thin, ashen-looking electrician, who gambles, sleeps with loose women, uses hard drugs and carries a pint bottle of bourbon as a sippy cup.

After an accident in the oil field, he is informed by understanding Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner) and the more clinical Dr. Sevard (Denis O'Hare) that he has HIV and has 30 days to live.

Angrily, he denounces them and goes out to party with strippers.

But as his health deteriorates, Woodroof researches HIV and returns to the doctors about his options. Saks tells him about a drug, AZT, that is being rushed through clinical trials by the FDA. Woodruff bribes an orderly to get him the drug and starts wolfing it but soon runs out.

He ends up in a Dallas hospital room, where he meets a quiet, wispy transgender patient, Rayon (Jared Leto), who beats him at poker. Unable to get more AZT, Woodroof goes to Mexico and meets a Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne), who puts him on vitamins and other legal (but not FDA specified drugs for HIV) to build up his immune system.

Intent on sharing those same drugs with others, while also making money, he dresses as a priest to get the drugs over the border and runs into an FDA agent for the first of many times.

None of the HIV positive patients in Dallas trust Woodroof until he takes on Rayon as a partner. Before long, they've created a business in an abandoned hotel where he provides patients drugs as part of a $400 a month membership to the Dallas Buyers Club.

The FDA is angry with him, along with local physicians, and Woodroof is forced to seek drugs from physicians around the world to help him and his club members.

Over the course of the film, he comes to appreciate that homosexuals are people just like him. Not surprisingly, his former friends turn on Woodroof and taunt him the minute they discover his illness.

The movie captures a man who refuses to give up to a disease and does everything in his power to prolong his life. I also liked how Leto intuitively created a strong, if still emotionally needy, character with a very less-is-more (almost Jordan Catalano-like) approach.

McConaughey and Leto deserved their Golden Globe wins and Oscar nominations. Garner also does a great job playing an emotionally supportive role to Woodroof's character who eventually gets behind the alternate means of medicine.

The end of the film is a forgone conclusion, but the movie's depiction of Woodroof's struggles and its re-creation of the AIDS tragedy provides a moving story of courage and a worthwhile cautionary tale.

Recommended.

'DALLAS BUYERS CLUB'

Grade: A

Director: Jean-Marc Vallee

Writers: Screenplay by Craig Borten and Melissa Wallack

Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto

Running time:

117 minutes

MPAA rating: R for pervasive language, some strong sexual content, nudity and drug use

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(c)2014 the Times Record News (Wichita Fallas, Texas)

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Copyright Wichita_Falls 2014

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