In the early 1980’s the AIDS epidemic hit the US by storm. During the first six years of the outbreak about 40,000 lives were lost. AIDS was a very misunderstood disease, ultimately attributed to gay men who were labelled deviants. Few hospitals and even fewer politicians would take AIDS victims seriously, therefore there was a great struggle to find both acceptance and reasonable treatment. Dallas Buyers Club charts this struggle.

The year is 1985, all the newspapers are headlining movie star Rock Hudson’s tragic battle with AIDS. Electrician and womanizer Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is diagnosed with AIDS himself. Realizing that the system isn’t helping people, he decides to work around it and help patients get the medication they need to survive just a few more years.

Dallas Buyers Club is essentially the Philadelphia of 2013, except this is more tragic, more honest and a better overall critique on the system. While Philadelphia was about one man’s struggle, this picture is about the struggle of many. Outside Woodroof’s home are dozens of victims waiting for him to give him the medication they need, but that the medical establishment won’t approve of. Director Jean-Marc Vallee intelligently demonstrates the faults of a bureaucratic system, capitalism, the FDA and pharmaceutical companies without being too preachy.

The story is well written, writer Craig Borten does not make Woodroof a hero off the bat. He is homophobic/sexist/racist jerk who slowly becomes a better person, only because he realizes that what he has been socialized to believe is wrong. Both McConaughey and Jared Leto give incredible performances that few can pull off. Not even Tom Hanks would lose 45 lbs for his role in Philadelphia. I enjoyed the fact that this film breaks stereotypes, even that of the racist southerner, rather than encourages them.

Dallas Buyers Club is a remarkable, heavy hitting drama with a lot of history behind it. Though David France’s How to Survive a Plague is more informative on the subject, this film will still get you thinking about the deep rooted issues that it presents. I’m not sure about Leto, but McConaughey is definitely getting the acting Oscar. Praise it!

4/5

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Check out more reviews by Michael Carlisle on his website.

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