The 2014 Academy Award Nominations
The Grace of Dallas Buyers Club: Facing Despair and Fear With Simple Humanity
Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto star in Dallas Buyers Club, the story of real-life Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof, whose free-wheeling life was overturned in 1985 when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. McConaughey and Leto’s portrayals in Dallas Buyers Club have been described as this year’s two most transformative and most honored performances. Their performances are staggering. McConaughey’s desperation was palpable in the film, a life force that wouldn’t be denied, and Leto’s performance was as seductive and fragile as a butterfly kiss.
Leading up to their Oscar nominations, both actors won at SAG, the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Movie Awards, not to mention an almost clean sweep for Leto among the many critics groups who give out these honors. The awards have come for their work in the “little-film-that-could,” in a movie that took 20 years to bring to the screen, that no one wanted to make, that was shot on a tight 24-day schedule for under $5 million and used only available light.
The movie, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, is a sober and unflinchingly brutal look at a man (actually, many men), coping with HIV and AIDS in the 1980s, although it’s not set in New York or San Francisco as we’ve come to expect from most movies about this disease. As the title indicates, we’re placed instead in Texas, dwelling in shabby corners of Dallas. While it’s an unexpected place to find a story like this, the film is based on an uplifting true one.
Dallas Buyers Club tells the story of Ron Woodroof, played by Matthew McConaughey, a Texas electrician and rodeo rider. After receiving a diagnosis of H.I.V. in 1985, Woodroof found himself shunned and ostracized by many of his old friends, and bereft of any government-approved effective medicines.Woodroof took his treatment into his own hands and helped others with the disease obtain medication not legally available in the United States at that time. He found a way to begin importing drugs by means both legal and illegal from far-flung countries and began running a buyers club out of a cheap Dallas motel, with the unlikeliest crew of partners.
Bigoted in the way a rowdy Texan rowdy would have been in 1986, Ron nevertheless found his closest ally in Rayon, a willowy, honey-voiced trans woman played with warmth and grace by Jared Leto. Ron and Rayon have a bickering, eyes-rolling chemistry, which served them well as they carried out the important work that the medical institutions wouldn’t do. In its quiet, restrained manner, the movie becomes a truly heartwarming one. Dallas Buyers Club is a delicate, but largely unsentimental, movie about people doing good deeds. Their shared struggle for dignity and acceptance is a uniquely American story of the transformative power of resilience. In their courageous work confronting the nightmarish terrors presented by the early face of AIDS, Ron and Rayon did not go gently into that good night.
Read more about Dallas Buyers Club in The New York Times here.
Dallas Buyers Club (Official Trailer)
Dallas Buyers Club: Anatomy of a Transformation