The modern malaise of the West lies in a conviction that all of its institutions, from governments to major business enterprises, are out to get us.
It is an orthodoxy that, if too often blatantly true, is adhered to mindlessly as the dominant paradigm of the age (‘they’ are the enemy who would deny us everything) – even This Paper rigidly conforms to it.
Jean-Marc Vallée’s superbly acted, if slightly repetitive, Dallas Buyers Club sets its foundation in the solid ground of popular resentfulness towards the powers that be.
Set in 1985, at the point where the AIDS epidemic in the US was nearing plague proportions (Rock Hudson had just died), there is an early scene in which a pharmaceutical company rep refers to the ‘great opportunity’ that research into a cure for HIV represents.
Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), a homophobic roughneck rodeo guy employed as an oil-field electrician, is shocked to learn that he has contracted the virus.
Advised that he has thirty days to get his affairs in order, Ron rails against fate and decides to take his treatment into his own hands. He travels to Mexico to procure drugs that have not been sanctioned by the appropriate agencies and establishes the Dallas Buyers Club, through which he can pass the drugs on to fellow sufferers who pay a fee to join (such groups were not uncommon – I had no idea).
Lip service is paid to the validity of controlled studies that scientists must do before making pronouncements about public health issues, but the emphasis is on the rightness of the little man against the suits.
Politics aside, though, it is Ron’s inner journey that grips the onlooker, not letting go until the sad but inevitable conclusion.
McConaughey, at the peak of his powers after leaving behind his rom-com career, is fantastic in a role that is demanding both physically and emotionally, as is Jared Leto as Rayon, the transvestite junkie with whom Ron forms an unlikely bond.
Not an easy movie, but well worth it.
~ John Campbell