The Camelot Theatres, Palm Springs’s premiere Art House for independent and foreign films is screening the gritty, grungy, and f-bomb laden film “ Dallas Buyers Club” starring Matthew McConaghey. McConaghey, a Hollywood handsome, leading man, lost more than 40 pounds in order to play the role of Ron Woodroof, a Texas hustler and rodeo rider/electrician with Aids, who turned drug dealer in the recently released “Dallas Buyers Club”.
The HIV/Aids epidemic during 1980’s that devastated gay and straight people alike, sent chills that carried an almost certain death sentence to those who contracted the virus. There was no known cure. This feeling of hopelessness is what it must have been like to be told that one had contracted Syphilis during the 19th century.
The film directed by Jean-Marc Vallee and written by Melisa Wallick and Craig Borten is somewhat of a biopic in that it borrows incidents from the life a real person. – Ron Woodroof a hell-raising son of Texas. Hollywood has gone down this road in the past with “Philadelphia” starring Tom Hanks as a closeted gay lawyer who contracts Aids; garnering an Academy Award for his performance. So the subject matter is not toxic or radio active anymore.
There are likable hustlers like Jon Voight of “Midnight Cowboy” and then there are the not so likable hustlers, like Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaghey) who definitely falls into the latter group. Ron’s lifestyle and unsavory friends give the Lone Star state a bad name. It seems, at least in the movies, that all Texans drive battered old cars and pick-up trucks, drink gallons of beer and whiskey, love to fight and break things, and have accents so thick that sub-titles are required to follow the story. But I digress.
The story follows Woodroof from a work related accident to his diagnosis as an HIV/Aids straight man, who snorts cocaine in between and during his sexual escapades, to smoking and drinking every grain known to man, and one who is in denial Big Time. And he’s a mean, foul-mouthed dude to boot, who hasn’t met a racial or homophobic slur that he didn’t like. Frankly, I lost count on how many f-bombs are hurled from screen (well over fifty plus for sure), but then I digress again.
His doctors tell him he has 30 days to get his affairs in order. A defiant Ron bellows and smashes his way out of the hospital, as one of his doctors Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), attempts to intervene and calm him down. Unconvinced by his doctors prescribed drugs, he takes off in search of alternative methods and drugs including herbs and vitamins available in Mexico, China, Netherlands, and Japan. Once back in Texas, he sets up a business with Rayon, a gay transvestite (Jared Leto who befriended him in one of his hospital stays) selling memberships to dispense free, non-approved FDA drugs and pills to anyone who becomes a member of his new organization – the Dallas Buyers Club – for a $400.00 membership fee.
Big Pharma is not pleased by this ploy and neither is the FDA. Thus begins a series of maneuverings in an effort to shut down Ron and his Buyers Club scheme. Now Ron moves from unsavory hustler to a Robin Hood like hero of the gay community with help from Rayon, and an unsuspecting Dr. Saks (the unscrupulous Woodroof stole a bunch of her Rx pads and has been writing his business subscriptions for drugs under her name).
Strange as it may seem, “Dallas Buyers Club” is a somewhat transformative movie story, in that an unlikable protagonist assumes hero-like status at the end of the film. The characters may not be my cup of tea, but there is no doubt in my mind that Matthew McConaghey will be receiving an Oscar nomination come January 2014 for his towering performance, warts and all, as Ron Woodroof. His nomination is a fitting testament to his skill and talent as an actor. He will also be joined on the Oscar nomination candidates list by Jared Leto for a Best Supporting Oscar nomination as Rayon, the transvestite and business partner of Woodroof. Other movies have employed a variation of similar points of friendship and tolerance coming to the fore in telling their stories. The biggest difference is they don’t have McConaghey and Leto, and the cast the of “Dallas Buyers Club”.
“Dallas Buyers Club” opened nationwide earlier this month.