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Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey

Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey

I really enjoyed this film. And I don’t like most movies these days. I prefer the imaginative, the original, and 3-dimensional characters, and such traits are scarce in Hollywood.

“Inspired by true events” and “based on real events” and “based on a true story,” etc., are statements seriously abused with most modern films. They’re usually used to make scary movies scarier, profound movies more profound, and at the end of the day just sell more tickets.

Dallas Buyers Club, starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, and Jared Leto, takes compelling true events and transforms them into an interesting, character-driven, entertaining, and even inspiring film.

Most of the best books and best films are character-driven. Of course you need a rich, intelligent, dramatic story, but it starts with solid yet complex characters. Shakespeare mastered this:  Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Marc Antony, Lady Macbeth, Iago, Ophelia, and the list goes on.

Matthew MConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, an 80s bull-riding, beer-drinking, cocaine-snorting, one-night-stand kind of guy. He’s something of a redneck, and highly prejudiced against gays, blacks, and who knows what else. We don’t like him, and yet we do kinda like him; he’s at least authentic about what he is, has a few charms, and then we see him take a big blow – being diagnosed with HIV.

Although the character Ron Woodroof starts out straightforward, and not particularly complex, the circumstances that befall him are complex, and change him into something meaningful.

Audiences love it when characters change. Transformation. Maybe it’s because people don’t change much in real life. But when they do, tis a moving surprise.

Another strong aspect of this movie is the time period it covers:  the gray area when HIV first hit America hard. Misinformation was everywhere; pharmaceutical companies were racing to make profits by nearly any means necessary (has anything changed?); and anti-gay sentiment was fired-up with all kinds of notions and accusations from fear of the virus spreading.

Ron Woodroof, given 30 days to live, survives seven years. But he does this by buying all kinds of drugs deemed illegal by the USDA, and using his wits and will to live to make money from the situation by becoming a hustler for HIV & AIDS alternative drugs, products, and treatments.

The relationship between Ron Woodroof and Rayon (played by Jared Leto) is one of positive change and epiphany. It’s a highlight and tear-jerker in the film. Rayon is full-on transgender. Powerful and flamboyant, but also fragile in the dark hours of the night and addicted to cocaine. They first partner up to hustle the alternative drugs, and eventually Ron takes a stand on Rayon’s – and essentially all LGBT’s – behalf. And he does it by putting his old “faggot-hating” buddy in a headlock and making him shake hands with Rayon properly. Action is character.

The movie may let a few “cardboard cutouts” squeak in, but we forgive this, as there is so much else great going on.

I don’t want to give much more away. Just go see it!

Last note, Matthew McConaughey put himself through a dramatic body transformation to play the role. He lost around 55 pounds. That amount may not seem huge, when you think of The Biggest Loser and all those programs…yet keep in mind he was already very fit and lean, so he became dangerously thin. And one look at him in the movie makes it apparent. He is extremely gaunt and looks truly stricken with a serious illness.

Some actors go through all kinds of body changes then deliver a poor performance. That sucks, for us and for them.

Matthew was brilliant. Sure, he’s from Texas and a lot of the positive charm exuded through the character is his in nature. But he stretched in other ways, and literally moved the whole film from scene to scene. By the end of the movie, you just want more of him, despite his startling, unattractive looks. For the role he won this year’s Best Actor Oscar at the Academy Awards.

Jared Leto looked extremely thin as well, and quite different from his usual boyish, rock star, vampire look. Jared won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

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