This Monday, I’m back to my regularly scheduled watching of the Academy Awards Best Picture nominated movies. My attempt last week was abandoned in favor of saving a kitten’s life. (He is doing great, btw.) I went to the DVD store to rent Nebraska again and discovered it was checked out. I moved on to Dallas Buyers Club for today’s first.
Dallas Buyers Club was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. It won in three categories: Best Make-up & Hairstyling, Best Supporting Actor for Jared Leto and Best Actor for Matthew McConaughey. The movie also stars Jennifer Garner and was directed by Jean-Marc Vallee. It is rated R and has a run time of 1 hour and 57 minutes.
I had seen a couple of previews for this movie and clips during the Oscars broadcast. I didn’t fully understand, from those brief viewings, what this movie was about. Based on a true story, Dallas Buyers Club is the story of electrician and rodeo fan Ron Woodroof, played by Matthew McConaughey, an ordinary, fun loving guy who gets a life changing diagnosis. He is HIV positive. In the mid 1980’s, HIV and AIDS were poorly understood and only one trial drug, AZT, was available as a possible FDA approved treatment.
Woodroof is given a month to live. After the AZT he obtains illegally almost kills him, Woodroof begins a journey of discovery about his illness and alternative treatments that are available. He finds an ally in a doctor in Mexico who teaches Ron that there are non toxic drugs and vitamins that can help fight this killer disease, none FDA approved or available in the US. With the help of Rayon, played by Jared Leto, these two unlikely entrepreneurs establish the Dallas Buyers Club as a way to get drugs and vitamins from around the world to those who desperately need them. The Club charges a monthly fee to its clients in exchange for all the drugs and treatments they need. The FDA looks the other way until the operation and the number of people being helped grows too large. It then becomes a war between Woodroof and his colleagues and the FDA, who refuses to approve the unconventional methods being used to extend the lives of AIDS patients.
Jared Leto’s portrayal of the transvestite Rayon was beautifully tragic and worthy of recognition and the numerous awards he won. A gentle, tortured soul, Rayon was key to building the Club. McConaughey gave an outstanding performance as a man on a mission to save himself and as many others as possible, before time ran out for him also. I believe he deserved the Best Actor award.
This was an amazing movie and a glimpse into a world I’m not familiar with. I felt compassion and deep sadness as I watched Rayon’s life slip away. I understood Woodroof’s anger over the way the FDA regulated and controlled which drugs were available for treatment and their apparent lack of interest in alternative treatments.
Frustrated by being blocked at every turn by the FDA, Ron Woodroof laments to his doctor friend, Eve, played by Jennifer Garner, “Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting for a life I ain’t got time to live. I want it to mean somethin’.” Laying her head on his shoulder, she assures him, “It does.” I can join her in saying the same thing to the real Ron, who died in 1992, of AIDS…your life mattered. You made a difference. And your life continues to impact others. What a legacy to leave.