Dallas Buyers Club

dallas buyers clubI was so nervous about watching this film. I so wanted to love it and yet I knew it had the potential to be a disaster for me personally. When you live through an important time in history (social movement, war, natural disaster, epidemic) and then watch someone depict it as historical fiction decades later there is inevitably a moment where you hold your breath and hope the film isn’t awful. Dallas Buyers Club is outstanding. Filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée captured the time as well as the mood perfectly. The sense of urgency and the outlaw nature of people living with AIDS in the mid-80’s kept the film rocking at a fevered pace. The arc of compassion handed to lead character Ron Woodruff played by Matthew McConaughey was necessary and in my opinion didn’t detract from the legion of gay men who were dying of the disease in Dallas, TX where the action of the film took place. Jared Leto’s award-winning role as transgendered Rayon was nuanced and filled with beauty and love even in the character’s darkest moments.

Originally I felt slighted because Hollywood green lit an AIDS film about a straight man. But in the end, I realized just as Philadelphia taught middle America compassion for people with AIDS, Dallas Buyers Club is not my film about AIDS, it’s a history lesson for a new generation of Americans who think that most people living with HIV pop a couple of pills and go rock climbing before breakfast. The stark reminder of the deadliest plague to hit the 20th Century worldwide and the darkest hours of the epidemic are important lessons for anyone too young to remember the legions of men and women dying within days and week of their diagnosis.  And not just dying, but dying horrific, grotesque deaths.  There needs to be a thousand films made with characters who have HIV in order to begin to crack the varied experience of life with this virus.  It is of course that way about anything you can think of that a human being would have to face in their lifetime.  The more stories we tell, the better the collective experience captured on film.

Dallas Buyers Club also didn’t shy away from depicting how disgusting and criminal the government and in particular the FDA was in providing aggressive access to pharmaceutical treatment for the disease. Many Americans think the breast cancer advocates changed the course of how average people view healthcare in this country, but truly it was the hardcore AIDS activists who taught everyone to become partners with their healthcare providers and demand the best treatment possible for their conditions.  The breast cancer activists took what the AIDS activists began and made it even more accessible for regular Americans.  A win-win for everyone.

In the end, I finished Dallas Buyers Club completely satisfied.  4 out of 5 for this important film.

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