Okay, so I’m gonna be honest with you. I heard about and wanted to watch this film because one of my heroes, Jared Leto, is in it. I’ve been following his work as an actor since discovering his band 30 Seconds to Mars (my favourite band for seven years and counting), and I’ve seen almost everything he’s done: From his first tiny film role in How to Make an American Quilt through to his previous movie, Mr. Nobody, in which he played the title role. So naturally when I heard he was signed on for Dallas Buyers Club, I was overjoyed. This marks his first film in almost six years, and as much as I love the rock star, his talent for acting is fantastic and unfortunately very underrated – until now.
For his role in this film as Rayon, a HIV-positive, drug-addicted transgender woman, Leto has won a Golden Globe and has also been nominated for an Academy Award. And after months of waiting to finally see Dallas Buyers Club, I can happily say both are well deservedly justified. The film itself has received six Oscar nods, including Best Picture, and Matthew McConaughey for Best Actor, again both rightly earned.
Based on true events, DBC is the story of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), an electrician and rodeo cowboy who indulges in lots of drugs, drink, and casual sex, who finds out in July 1985 that he is HIV positive. His immediate reaction is denial, outrage and disgust – at the height of the AIDS crisis, the majority of AIDS sufferers were gay. As a homophobe, Ron feels wrongly diagnosed and wrongly accused of being homosexual. The doctors tell him he only has 30 days left to live. Fortunately his denial doesn’t last long, after some research of his own, he realizes that the diagnosis is true, and he immediately seeks treatment, refusing to accept his death sentence. After learning that the FDA approved drug to treat HIV/AIDS, known as AZT, is actually worse for patients, and himself, he begins to smuggle non-approved medicine back to Dallas from Mexico. This medicine actually improves his condition markedly, and he begins selling the drugs to other sufferers to get them off AZT and give them a chance to live.
Over the course of his frequent trips to the hospital, Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), keeps a close eye on Ron, as she is sympathetic to his plight, agreeing that AZT is not the best treatment for the patients. However, it is her job to administer it. Ron also meets Rayon (Jared Leto), who is undoubtedly the most loved character in the film. The two of them become business partners, as well as good friends, setting up the Dallas Buyers Club: their way of getting around the authorities. As they sell memberships, not drugs, business really take off, scores of people flocking to them to get treatment, and Ron’s health stabilises. His views on homosexuality do almost a complete 180 thanks to Rayon, and he learns to be accepting of the gay “lifestyle”. Ron seeks out other non-approved treatments from across the globe, and even though the FDA steps in to shut him down at every turn, he keeps fighting for his AIDS-inflicted family right until the very end.
DBC is an astonishing film, one that everyone has to see. I walked out of the theatre left completely speechless and overwhelmed by what I had seen. It is incredibly powerful, inspirational, and heart-wrenching. McConaughey and Leto embody their characters completely, their performances fighting for your attention when on screen together. They are both so real and so raw in their portrayal, that you can’t help but go through with them everything that they suffer and strive through together. I was completely captivated and lost in their world. Hats off to the entire cast and crew for giving us a great treasure in this movie. I plan on seeing it more than once.