Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club: Film Review

                Released last November was the biographical drama, “Dallas Buyers Club.”  It features Matthew McConaughey at his finest, Jared Leto making a return to the silver screen after five years.  Based on a true story (as everything seems to be nowadays), “Dallas Buyers Club” follows Donald Woodroof (McConaughey) through his battle against HIV, and eventually AIDS. 

Bull rider and electrician, Woodroof lived life to the fullest each day with drugs, sex and alcohol galore.  Upon his diagnosis with 30 days to live, he denied that he could have contracted it.  Once he began researching what the illness is, and how you contract it, he realizes that it is no mistake.  At this point, HIV and AIDS were new to the medical world, and there was no treatment to cure its patients. 

Woodroof takes it upon himself to get a hold of AZT, the drug that has the most positive test results this far.  He first consults Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner) to get him some dosages, but cannot acquire it within his thirty days left.  He learns more and more about the disease, and through self-testing tons of drugs, he figures out which supplements will prolong how much time you may have.  The Dallas Buyers Club is born, with him smuggling drugs in, and with the help of the transgender woman Rayon (played by Jared Leto), he gets down to business.

The film is incredible, as Woodroof does whatever it takes to cure himself, and extends the opportunity to those around him.  At $400 a month for membership, AIDS patients are able to acquire as much drugs as they want for treatment.  However, these drugs were not approved by the FDA.  A decent amount of it was vitamins and supplements used to keep your immune system healthy, and they work provided you stay clean. 

When HIV and AIDS first surfaced, doctors were unsure of how to treat it, so they tested drugs on patients to find out what worked.  Doctors like Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner) in the film tried to figure out what works best.  Although the FDA did approve AZT, a drug that was supposed to regenerate the T cell count, it had side effects that weakened the immune system.  To keep himself alive for a little longer, Woodroof smuggled in the illegal drugs.  He also wanted to help people in the same situation as him and was able to so.  Woodroof wound up living   

When the story of Woodroof first appeared in a newspaper, screenwriter Craig Borten went to Texas to speak with the man.  After spending three days with Woodroof, Borten wrote a screenplay.  His charisma lent itself to a script, as his story was interesting, and could fill a theater under the right circumstances.  It took a long time for it to go into production, as other prominent Hollywood figures such as Woody Harrelson and Ryan Gosling were attached to the film at several points themselves. 

In order to make the film focus more on Woodroof himself, his real-life sister and daughter were left out of the script.  This allowed for the piece to become a character study of the man, and keep him the main focus of his biography.  The characters of Rayon and Dr. Saks were also written for the film, after interviews with AIDS patients and doctors were compiled to create them. 

The pre-production process of “Dallas Buyers Club” had been underway since 1992, before Woodroof’s death.  The production of the film wasn’t easy, either.  Due to budget limitations, there was little to no lighting set-ups.  The only camera used was a handheld, which resulted in each take having a 15 minute limit to filming footage.  The result of all the pressure? Amazing. 

Matthew McConaughey shines in this film, possibly the best of his career thus far.  In preparation of this role, he lost 47 pounds.  The Hollywood Foreign Press awarded him the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama, and it was well deserved.  He is definitely a big contender in the Best Actor category for the Academy Awards, and he might win.  That category is packed with talent this year but McConaughey’s transformation to play Woodroof was the best. 

The five year break Leto took from acting definitely paid off.  He won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama, and got a nod from the Academy for Best Supporting Actor as well.  He lost 30 pounds for this role, and was at one point 114 pounds.  He is a dedicated actor who isn’t afraid to stay in character, even when leaving set to go grocery shopping.  (True story-he went to a supermarket and frightened a few customers in his dress and heels). 

“Dallas Buyers Club” is up for six Academy Awards this March in the following categories: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Motion Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Best Film Editing.  Things are looking good for this picture, as the two actors allow the silver screen to consume them whole.  McConaughey and Leto deserve recognition beyond the Globes for their performances. 

1 comment:

  1. It's really the performances that make this more than just a high-class disease-of-the-week effort.
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