Customer Reviews: Dallas Buyers Club
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"Dallas Buyers Club" (2013 release; 117 min.) brings the (real life) story of Ron Woodroof (played by Matthew McConaughey). As the movie opens, it is July, 1985 (we see a newspaper headline about Rock Hudson being outed with AIDS), and we are at a rodeo in Dallas where Woodroof is getting it on with two girls at the same time, while also placing bets on rodeo riders. A picture is quickly painted of Woodroof as the Texan wild and crazy guy. Yet soon we see him struggling, coughing and generally not feeling well and when he is admitted in the hospital, he gets the shocking news that he is HIV positive and is given only 30 days to live by the doctors. Woodroof goes ballistic and refuses to accept his fate, only to find that the FDA is allowing only one approved drug (ATZ) on the market. Woodroof eventually finds alternative medications in Mexico. To tell you much more would ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Several comments: first and foremost, let's talk about Matthew McConaughey's performance. He will simply blow you away. The very first shot of him (a head shot, in which he physically already looks terrible) is pretty shocking, to be honest (McConaughey reportedly lost 40 lbs. for the film). This role continue's McConaughey's recent string of top notch performances (Mud, Killer Joe, Bernie, The Paperboy, just to name those), and surely he will (or at least should) get strong consideration for a Best Actor Oscar nomination. (It just makes you wish that McConaughey wouldn't have wasted so many years playing those tiresome rom-com roles time and again.) Second, much has been said as well about Jared Leto's role. He first appears about 30 min. into the movie as the cross-gender dressing gay Rayon, to become Woodroof's business partner. It most certainly is a great performance (and is openly touted for Best Supporting Actor Oscar) but in my book, it doesn't come anywhere close to McConaughey's. Jennifer Garner has a small role as one of the Dallas Mercy hospital doctors, and gets completely blown away by both McConaughey and Leto. Third, this movie is most capably directed by Canadian Jean-Marc Vallee, who most recently brought us the excellent "Café de Flore". Fourth, the movie does not put either the FDA or Big Pharma in a kind light, as we are given the impression that both are in cahoots and do not care what is best for the public at large (I have no idea to what extent this was or is the case). Last but not least, there is an excellent collection of songs featured in the movie, with many staples from the 1970s and 80s including a number of T Rex songs (Rayon is obsessed with T Rex's Marc Bolan). But beware: the movie soundtrack (which is available here on Amazon) features primarily music "inspired by", rather then "from" the movie, and is not an accurate reflection of what you hear in the movie.

"Dallas Buyers Club" makes for an emotionally invested and moving experience that will tuck at your heart. But the acting performance from McConaughey is what makes this movie profoundly memorable. The screening I saw this act recently here in Cincinnati (where it's been playing already several weeks) was PACKED, leading me to think that this movie will find a larger audience, which is great news. Bottom line, "Dallas Buyer's Club" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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VINE VOICEon December 18, 2013
1985. A sexually active, straight, carousing, drug abusing Texas rodeo cowboy collapses. At the hospital he is told he has HIV and has less than thirty days to live. Does he succumb to the diagnosis, or does something else happen entirely?

Dallas Buyers Club is based on a true story about Ron Woodruff. I must admit I was unfamiliar with this movie. The ticket seller gave me an unconvincing outline, and I was about to walk away when a couple overhearing our conversation assured me it was a good movie.

I am glad to say they were correct. This is the exact type of movie that wins Oscars, and gets many nominations.

Matthew Mc Conaughey deserves to be nominated for playing someone battling a deadly disease who takes on big drugs and the FDA, to enable other sufferers like himself to have access to supplements and life saving drugs. He reputedly lost about 40 pounds for the role, and at times does look very gaunt, which gives an added layer of reality to his portrayal.

This is a multi faceted movie full of interesting characters, which operates on multiple levels at once. The personal struggle, the parallel struggles and contrasts, and the battle against different facets of authority. Jennifer Garner in a supporting role plays a feisty yet compassionate doctor, while a colleague with more of an eye to profit becomes a doctor shill for big drugs, which are experimental, still unproven, and in the clinical trial stage, and may have toxic side effects, while our protagonist has to chase down a caring and competent doctor in Mexico who was disbarred, for less toxic alternatives.

Why does one experimental method, with an unproven drug, take priority over drugs that are unapproved by the FDA? Aren't drugs undergoing clinical trials also unapproved? In both cases aren't people offering themselves as guinea pigs, and why shouldn't they be allowed to do that? After all, it is their lives.

I loved this movie, and I found the story far more engaging than I thought I would beforehand. I was particularly intrigued and a little surprised by how hard hitting it was against the FDA, and the role it plays in connection with the big pharmaceutical companies, and how it restricts our access even to harmless supplements.

I love it when a character is resourceful, so I loved the answers he gives an FDA official when he is stopped and questioned at the border.

As often happens in a movie of this nature, there is more than one great performance. An unrecognizable Jared Leto gives a breathtaking performance as a gaunt transgender woman also undergoing treatment who Ron meets, and who sources customers for him. Ray like others has to deal with Ron's homophobia, and it's refreshing to see how it plays out as the character develops. What I love is the journey the character makes through being confronted with his own mortality, and how that affects a wider circle of people.

If Leto does not get an Oscar nomination for his role then there is no justice in Hollywood. He would have to be a leading contender for Best Supporting Actor, as Matthew McConaughey would be for Best Actor.

One thing that has impressed me in recent years is McConaughey's transition from lightweight romcom, and pretty boy roles, to more challenging roles. For instance, I consider Lincoln Lawyer to be one of his best roles as a wheeler dealer lawyer but not the type of role for which an actor is typically nominated. He battles the system but has no weakness.

Actors win Oscars for playing two types of roles:

One is the psychopath, such as Daniel Day Lewis for There Will Be Blood, Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men, and Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter.

The second is actors battling disabilities or diseases and/or social injustice. Recently Octavia Spenser won for playing a maid dealing with racial discrimination, Meryl Streep for playing a Prime Minister battling alzheimers, and Christian Bale for playing a former boxer battling drug addiction. Jennifer Lawrence won playing a character battling grief who acts out sexually. Bradley Cooper was nominated for playing someone with bipolar disorder in the same movie. Jeff Bridges won an alcoholic country singer. More recently the trend has been moving toward playing real life characters.

As often happens the best movies of the year are released in December and timed for an Oscar run. I think most people will love it
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon December 18, 2013
Theatrical review. There may be spoilers.

It seems that Matthew McConaughey gets better and better as an actor with each film he's in. In this depressing (sorry) film he plays the real life Ron Woodroof. Set in 1985 Dallas, Woodroof is a skilled electrician (like his daddy), who plays harder than he works. He's a womanizing, part time bull-riding racist. He also likes a little "smack" to go with his women and his booze.

His negligence gets him a full blown case of HIV and ultimately AIDS. Given a month to live (he makes it 7 years), Woodroof pulls out all the stops to get drugs to help fight the disease. At the time, little was known about the disease but AZT was believed to have a positive effect and was approved for testing. But certainly not in the large doses, Ron was taking. His ill-gotten supply eventually runs out so he goes to Mexico to get some new treatment, none of which includes AZT or any other hard drug for that matter.

Given that AIDS mostly affected homosexual men at the time, Woodroof was ostracized by his friends and co-workers. He eventually has to put his homophobic beliefs aside and works with another patient at the hospital to create a "club" where membership includes free medicine. This sidesteps the law against bringing drugs of any kind into the country and reselling them without a proper license.

His friend Rayon (a memorable performance by Jared Leto) becomes his assistant and recruiter. Woodroof ends up going to Japan, The Netherlands and China after his access to Mexico is curtailed. All along the way, the DEA and other government entities stifle his ability to get treatment approved in the U. S.

The film isn't pleasant to watch, but does raise the real issues of getting drugs fast tracked for those in dire need who have little to lose. See the film for some remarkable acting performances if nothing else.
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on January 20, 2014
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (The Young Victoria, C.R.A.Z.Y.) from a screenplay by first-time screenwriter Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack (Mirror, Mirror), Dallas Buyers Club is based on the life and experiences of Ron Woodruff, a Texas electrician and rodeo hanger-on who, when diagnosed with AIDS and told he only had 30 days to live, refused to just roll over and die.

The movie begins in Dallas, Texas in 1985, when AIDS was just beginning to emerge in the public consciousness. Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey in an absolutely amazing performance) is a 35-year-old electrician and rodeo hanger-on who lives hard and parties harder, everything from smoking and drinking to drugs and careless sex. When an injury on the job ends up sending him to the hospital, the doctors there do some tests and awkwardly inform him that he tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. They then inform him that he should start putting his affairs in order as they estimate that he only has maybe thirty days to live. Ron, a stereotypical homophobic redneck, angrily rejects the diagnosis, believing - as most people did back then - that AIDS was something only "f[expletive for homosexual]s" got, the mere implication being more offensive to him than the potential death-threat of the disease.

Woodroof immerses himself in booze and drug binge denial at first. But when thinking about something he read - about how some people get AIDS from intravenous drug use - he reflects on some past behavior and comes to the realization that the diagnosis is probably true. Snapping himself out of his depression, he begins to read everything he can find on AIDS, particularly on treatment research. At the time, the drug AZT was the only thing that seemed to show any promise at combatting the disease. The problem though was that AZT was only in the clinical trials stage in the US, a process which was going to take a year before the drug could be approved by the FDA for doctors to prescribe to patients. Facing a 30-day diagnosis, a year's wait was a death sentence for people like Woodroof. Refusing to accept the situation, and faced with no way to legally buy the drug, Woodroof sets out to get it any way he can. Eventually he ends up going to Mexico to a clinic run by a Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne), an American physician whose license was revoked for violating US regulations in his AIDS-related work. Dr. Vass puts Ron on a cocktail of other drugs, along with some vitamins, that he believes are more effective in treating the symptoms of AIDS, there being no known way of treating the HIV virus itself.

Seeing an opportunity, Ron begins to buy up large stockpiles of the unapproved drugs and vitamins and smuggle them into the US, not only for his own use but for sale to other HIV+ persons to help pay for the costs of his own treatment. To broaden his reach, the still very homophobic Woodroof enters into an unlikely partnership with a transvestite named Rayon (Jared Leto in an equally bravura performace), a fellow HIV patient, who he met during a stay in the hospital, realizing that Rayon would have more contacts with AIDS patients in the gay community, which at the time was where the vast majority of them were. Eventually their questionably legal business grows into the Dallas Buyers Club, an organization that allows them to circumvent the law against selling the drugs by simply giving the drugs to members who have to pay a monthly fee for their memberships.

A lot of what makes this movie worth seeing are the outstanding performances by Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike, The Lincoln Lawyer) and Jared Leto (Requiem for a Dream, Lord of War), both of whom went to extraordinary lengths to make this film (McConaughey lost 50 pounds and Leto lost 30 pounds to achieve the gaunt look needed to portray the effects of AIDS over time). McConaughey is amazingly intense as he takes Woodroof first through the emotional gamut of dealing with the AIDS diagnosis, and then transforms himself as he shows Woodroof dealing with his situation with absolute determination to survive regardless of what it takes, rapidly adjusting his life and his views and calling on talents he never knew he had to become the person he needs to be - and the person other people need him to be - to survive. Leto's Rayon is also a great character study, giving depth to his character by showing another side to Rayon's outer flamboyance, revealing things by his character's very unwillingness to reveal them.

*** Warning - Possible spoiler in next paragraph ***

But it is McConaughey who drives the film and who commands your attention. One of the sequences that best shows the intensity McConaughey throws into his performance occurs as he shows Ron's life rapidly falling apart as news of his diagnosis spreads. His former friends turn on him, his co-workers refuse to let him on the job site, and finally he returns one night to his rented trailer only to find the door locked, an eviction notice taped to it, and the words "F[expletive for homosexual] Blood!" spray-painted across the side. To which McConaughey's Ron responds in sheer rage, yelling to the silent trailers around him "I still live here, you hear me?! I fu[expletive]in' live here!!" He is _so_ not going gentle into that good night.

*** End of possible spoiler - You may read safely from here on. :) ***

The rest of the cast is also quite good. Jennifer Garner (Alias, Juno) is effective at bringing out the dilemmas of the time as Eve Saks, the doctor who gets to know both Woodroof and Rayon, caught between her desire to help and the restrictions put on her by the medical bureaucracy, particularly as she comes to doubt the approved approach both in terms of its effectiveness and its motivations. And Steve Zahn (Treme, Diary of a Wimpy Kid) provides a nice counter-balance as Ron's sympathetic brother Tucker, a Dallas cop caught between enforcing the law and the ties of family.

What's also remarkable about Dallas Buyers Club is that it was made on a comparative shoestring budget - just $5M - most of which McConaughey had to raise himself. And yet it looks better than half of the big-budget films hitting theaters these days. And partly because of this, there's a leanness to the feel of the film that fits the core story, where time matters and no moment can afford to be wasted.

Highly, highly recommended, not only for McConaughey and Leto's outstanding performances but for its portrayal of people struggling against not only a procedure-bound medical bureaucracy but also against a system geared against them by the enormous influence of pharmaceutical companies
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on February 12, 2016
This movie is based on a real story of Ron Woodruff, a very sexually active cowboy that learns he has HIV and is given 30 days to live. He tries to find a way to live longer and changes the way HIV is treated. It was shocking to see how bad Matthew McConaughey looks in the movie but his acting is good.

While the movie can be slow it is an interesting look at the early days of HIV and the people who worked to help those infected. It's a good watch.
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As a nurse during the AIDS crisis in the 1980's, it was one of the most frustrating experiences of my career. Dying men, families and friends who rejected them. Homemade signs as anyone entered town saying "BillyBob is a f*****, and he has AIDS. Funeral homes who would not take a person who had died with HIV. I could go on and on, but this film gives us a first hand experience.

"Dallas Buyers Club," directed by Jean-Marc Vallée gives us the story of a man, who had unprotected sex, mainlined drugs and developed HIV. You can find this kind of story anywhere, but it is the performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto that bring this film to life. Ron Woodroof, played by McConaughey was a real-life figure. Diagnosed with HIV he could not believe it, a heterosexual man, cowboy, rodeo man, found himself with a 30 day life sentence. Unable to be part of the AZT trials, he began exploring alternative medications, went to Mexico and got better. He became partners with the men he detested the most, and soon became friends with them.

Jared Leto, as the transsexual, Rayon, is the epitome of an actor that transcends space and time. He deserves the Academy Award for his portrayal. We become emotionally involved with these two characters as they try to save their kind, while at the same time making money by charging to belong to the 'Club' and obtaining medications to keep them alive. Fighting the FDA, the physicians, big Pharma and any legal entity , they did their thing. Both actors lost a great deal of weight fir these roles, and it shows. We are waiting for them to keel over.

Try not to come to this film with pre-conceived ideas about this community. Let yourself into the story, and believe and observe their life. It takes a strong commitment to fight this good fight. Excellent film, but the performances will overwhelm you.

Recommended. prisrob 02-04-14
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on November 15, 2014
Story was little dark, but the acting and the story was very realistic. And sad that we have this process around drugs and dying people with no help, but bureaucracy. I wouldn't watch it again--it was too dark, weird and too graphic with sex and open drug use. This guy got aids from apparently open sex with people who were drug users or other indiscriminate sex lives while drunk or drugged up. Very up close and personal to impact of smarmy lifestyles (drugging , drunkenness, and sex that results from both...filthy environments... not referring to homosexuality), drug addicts, and the prejudice towards people with aids--and their desperate plight to survive. They have little help. This story was also eye opening in the AIDS plight, and It also opened my eyes to how blatant prejudice is against people with AIDs and HIV, and those born (and "out) as gay. It was very realistic. I would not watch it with kids. The acting was very good and the plight shown was real.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon January 16, 2014
Already laden with awards from the Golden Globes, this audacious film has collected six nominations for Academy Awards. After viewing this moving story, I can certainly see why. Director Jean-Marc Vallée ("Young Victoria") pulled off nothing short of a miracle when funding suddenly dried up and he filmed this in 25 days. He fed his cast on over-loaded credit cards.

Through the use of dates (when initially diagnosed in 1985, our hero is given 30 days to live), we know that this actually happened; it is a brilliant script by two newcomers, Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, who used Ron Woodroof's life to inform their script (he's "Woodruff" in the film). Last year I saw the excellent documentary "How to Fight a Plague" and feel that the time lines and the learning curve about AIDS are realistic and factual.

Some of this terrific cast are:
* Matthew McConaughey ("The Wolf of Wall Street") is Ron Woodruff, a macho rodeo cowboy and hustler. When told his diagnosis he lets the doctor know in no uncertain terms, what he thinks of THAT: "Straight men don' get AIDS!" Mr. M. lost 45 pounds to add realism to his role.
* Jared Leto ("Mr. Nobody") is Rayon, a transgender wannabe who partners with our hero to form the Buyers Club, a gimmick that (temporarily) circumvents Texas law. He lost 40 pounds as well as waxed his body for this role.
* Jennifer Garner ("Butter") plays Eve, a doctor who sees the value of reducing the toxic doses of AZT, despite her medical colleagues and Big Pharma. See how that works for her!
* Denis O'Hare ("J. Edgar") is Dr. Sevard, the face we soon come to see as evil because he represents the implacability of the ADA and Big Pharma.
* Steve Zahn ("Diary of a Wimpy Kid") is our hero's brother Tucker, a Dallas cop and an all-around good guy.
* Griffin Dunne ("Broken City") is Dr. Vass, an American doctor exiled to Mexico because of his unorthodox approach to HIV and AIDS. This proves to be a game changer.

Ron Woodruff is a rake hell, so expect "F" bombs by the score, sexual situations (he didn't get AIDS sitting home watching TV), drug use and realistic depiction of dying victims. No wonder it is rated "R" and is awarded with wins and nominations! There isn't a weak performance; a tip of the Stetson to French-Canadian Monsieur Vallée!
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on March 11, 2016
This is a great movie. I'd been wanting to watch this for a while and finally decided to rent it by using some of my promotional benefits. I'd been wasting a lot of my credits by renting some really, really bad movies, some so bad I never even got hardly passed the first few minutes. This is one of those movies that makes you think...mostly about human strength and character. It's really amazing what just one person can do. I've seen the wreckage really, really bad people leave behind and you see movies about them way too much. There are so many movies about made up characters doing bad things and they sometimes leave me feeling really discouraged and sad about the human race. But this movie is a refreshing change of pace. It's very inspirational and even though I felt kind of 'dirty' watching it at times, it still reminded me of what being a caring human is like. You don't have to look like Mother Teresa to be compassionate and be of help to those suffering. And unfortunately sometimes you have to play outside the rules, too. I had no idea how frustrating things must've been like for those suffering from HIV/AIDS in the early days and this movie opened up my eyes. It makes me thankful of how far we've come, even though we still have a long way to go, especially in certain communities.
Matthew McConaughey is barely recognizable in this role. I can't believe how much weight he lost to portray Ron Woodruff in the lead role. Jared Leto is great too. One of the better movies I've seen lately.
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on December 21, 2015
This is one of Matthew McConaughey's & Jared Leto's best performances in my opinion. They deliver powerful performances that will completely absorb you into the characters. This film takes you on a journey through a whole range of emotion that will leave you with a renewed belief in our single ability to change and affect change. It is a must See!! :)
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