Dallas Buyers Club hits Berlin cinemas on February 6.
When America hustles… it likes to get the best of both worlds: that of the hustler challenging accepted wisdom, and that of the flawed establishment with just enough good men and women to enable and ennoble the individual’s pursuit of happiness.
It’s a bit of a wobble, and if Dallas Buyers Club pulls it off, McConaughey’s the man to thank. He embodies the real-life character of Ron Woodroof, the abrasively straight urban cowboy from Texas who contracted HIV in the 1980s, was given 30 days to live, self-prescribed and procured an effective cocktail of non FDA-approved drugs from non-American sources and hung in for another seven years. During this time, he founded the Dallas Buyers Club, circumventing the ban on selling unlicensed medication by giving it away to anybody who paid the $400 membership fee.
The FDA gets its flack for conspiring with the pharmaceuticals industry to test high doses of the hideously rough viral-cell killer AZT on AIDS victims when a much more effective mixture of less aggressive drugs and immunity boosters was available – yet untested. But tucked away in waiting rooms and courtrooms we also have doctors, judges and law enforcement officers, whose hands, although systemically tied, are yet willing to reach out with sympathy and support, whilst the introduction of the fictional transgender Rayon (Leto) as Woodroof’s business partner notches up more tolerance points. Formally there’s nary a quibble.
Filming on a low budget, DP Yves Bélanger makes the most of a digital, light-sensitive Alexa camera, snappy cutting, many, many close-ups and handheld mobility to create the kind of in-your-face savvy intrinsic to Woodroof’s environment, as well as his harried race against time: if the measure of a movie is respect for its limited narrative paradigm, this one’s pretty near perfect.
Dallas Buyers Club | Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (USA 2013) with Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto. Starts February 6
Originally published in February 2014.