I have not seen Angels in America, but I hear tell that it jerks many a tear. I have seen RENT, and lemmetellya, Angel and Mimi did NOT deserve to go that way. Seasons of Tears were shed.
Dallas Buyers Club, the newest film to add to the AIDS category, extracted one single tear from these hungry eyes. When Matthew McConaughey’s character Ron Woodroof returns from a court battle with the FDA, his community is waiting for him at buyers club HQ, and greets him with applause, and bear hugs from his friends and supporters.
All this is to say that Dallas Buyers Club, as AIDS movies go, is not the downeriest downer I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t expecting it to be from the trailer, which is almost an almost accurate representation of the film: it’s a movie about AIDS but the story is more about one cowboy’s rootin’ tootin’ struggle/drugs ‘n money scheme.
But what the trailer does not show is the totally devastating portrait of the mid-80s AIDS epidemic – the lack of a cure, the homophobia, the misinformation, and of course the physical manifestation of AIDS – which is what makes the film shocking, and powerful, and to some, a downer. DBC achieves this through the incredible character acting, makeup etc., and extreme weightloss of McConaughey’s characer, and, of course, Jared Leto’s character.
Leto’s character Rayon is a cross-dressing AIDS patient who seems to have a previous relationship with the good doctor Jennifer Garner. Rayon and Woodroof team up to provide alternative (and in many cases, the only available) AIDS medication to the HIV-wracked gay community of Dallas. What follows is the development of a relationship of necessity to one of caring and compassion between the two protagonists.
Leto is getting a lot of credit for his extreme weight-loss and extreme performance, but I think both actors deserve our reverence and appreciation. These characters were funny, empathetic, strong-willed, desperate and flawed human beings. Seeing Rayon go from someone who has owned the totality of her existence in a finger snap, neck-roll, hair-flip Attitude kind of way to self-sabotaging, loving, and on the brink of death skeleton was heart wrenching. Watching Ron transform from death-wracked hick, to alternative medicine drug dealer, to genuine AIDS activist, to compassionate leader and member of a community, was inspiring. This is the side of the film the trailer does not show because it is not sexy, and not the kind of car wreck we want to rubber neck. But it gave a perfect balance to the action-oriented tale of drug hustling and FDA fighting that drove the plot forward.
Dallas Buyers Club combined the compelling story of maverick Ron Woodroof’s fight to bring AIDS medication to the USA with an unflinching look at this terrible disease via beautiful and shocking character portraits of the two main characters – Rayon and Ron – as well as the larger AIDS population of Dallas. This combination achieved a movie about AIDS that was not a sob story. It showed the viewers how totally bleak this portion of American history was, but it was not hard to watch (and at no point did I want to stop watching), because the story and the fight were compelling enough to keep me (and the characters themselves) from utter despair. Dallas Buyers Club was an important movie and I recommend it to all, far and wide.
But maybe bring a box of tissues, just in case.