Dallas Buyers Club (15)

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto  

Director: Jean-Marc Vallee

Running time: 117 minutes

In a word: Absorbing

Our verdict: Watch it

BACK in 2009, Jennifer Garner and Matthew McConaughey were co-stars in the dire rom-com Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.

This week, they share the screen in one of the finest films of recent memory, one which has been nominated for multiple Oscars and may secure a Best Actor award for McConaughey, a man whose career resurrection has been equal to that of Garner’s husband, Ben Affleck.

How things ebb and flow in Hollywood.

And Texas born-and-bred McConaughey is just the man for the key role in this real-life tale. He must thank his lucky stars that it languished in development hell for years until it landed on his desk.

He’s absolutely on fire throughout playing Ron Woodruff, a sexist, racist, homophobic, drinking-and-drugging rodeo-loving electrician who has an accident at work and inadvertently finds out that he has HIV.

Even worse, doctors (including sympathetic MD Jennifer Garner) deliver the news that he has a mere 30 days left in which to put his affairs in order.

After a momentary dip into denial, a life of hustling and struggling means that his heightened survival instinct surfaces.

He researches the emerging medicines, sourcing them illegally and downs them with coke and alcohol, before a forced trip to Mexico opens up the possibilities of an alternate path of treatment focusing on aloe, fatty acids and proteins.

And the entrepreneur in him realises that, back in the US, there will be money to be made by spreading these medications out to the similarly desperate afflicted.  

Joined by transvestite Rayon (Jared Leto, employing his cheekbones to fabulous effect), Ron reads about and then establishes a ‘buyers club’ in Dallas, inadvertently aiding medical progress by sourcing this alternative medication from all around the world.    

McConaughey’s work throughout this film extends way beyond the emaciation he achieved by months of starving himself. Once you’re past the shock of seeing a man famed for his health and athleticism in such a sorry physical state, you can begin to admire the fervour and truth of his impassioned performance. 

This may be an issues film, but it’s superbly written, very witty, and refreshingly non-saccharine in the main, refusing to labour over repentances and thus allowing us to make up our mind about this man. Utterly rejected by his friends and community, he fires on regardless, eking out a new existence for himself whilst fighting to stay alive.

Dallas Buyers Club also vividly communicates, via Ron’s drive, the progress borne out of the terrible desperation, the urgency and confusion of the time.

And it also touches on the early homophobia surrounding HIV and AIDS before it became widely publicised that it could be contracted via unprotected sex, intravenous drug use or a contaminated blood transfusion, plus the FDA’s shady role in the control and release of new medications.

No one should be surprised if, come Oscar night, McConaughey’s rejuvenation peaks with success in his category. Not even his biggest detractors would deny that his work in Dallas Buyers Club absolutely deserves it.