Jean-Marc Vallée’s powerful film Dallas Buyers Club relates the story of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), a cocky and decidedly homophobic Texas cowboy who contracts HIV, an affliction that inevitably develops into the devastating AIDS disease. When Ron realizes how limited the treatment options for his sickness are in America, he takes matters into his own hands, beginning an international smuggling operation providing AIDS medications to those in need. After meeting Rayon (Jared Leto), a kind but troubled and drug-addicted drag queen who shares his sickness, Ron begins to shed his biases and develops a real desire to help others who are suffering as he is.
I never believed that I would be as thrilled as I am to predict Matthew McConaughey as the front runner to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, but there you have it. McConaughey’s transformation from homophobe to advocate, as well as his physical one from healthy to emaciated, is emotional and undeniably powerful. His costar Jared Leto is equally stunning and unrecognizable in his role, and I also predict that he will deservedly walk away with the award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. These performances are raw, gritty, and often unpleasant, yet they evoke the kind of emotional response rarely achieved in film, and a sweep for male actors would be quite the achievement. Dallas Buyers Club also received nominations for Best Picture – although not Directing – Film Editing, Original Screenplay, and, with clear reasoning, Makeup and Hairstyling.
Dallas Buyers Club effectively uses several techniques to mimic the situation and perspective of one struggling with AIDS, such as blurry camerawork and ringing sounds. The resulting film may not be entirely pleasant to watch, but the story it presents is important, relevant, and, ultimately, redemptive. While Ron transforms in a degrading manner physically, he also converts mentally and emotionally into an overall better individual. Hard-hitting and realistic, this movie is the kind of film that leaves a lasting emotional impact, and in any other year I am sure that it would be my choice for Best Picture. In 2013, however, one final film stood out above the rest, and it will be explored in the final installment of this year’s Talia’s Takes.