February 14, 2014
Not much is found to be redeemable in Ron Woodroof within the first thirty minutes or first half of “Dallas Buyers Club.” A detestable redneck whose only real passion is sex is far from anyone you care about let alone want to spend two hours watching. I found it hard to believe, as I reached the second act, that despite the craze around Matthew McConaughey’s biographical portrayal, I would have empathized with Ron in any way. However, with the abundance of distain you feel for him at the beginning of the film, by the end you adore him and the pursuits he attempts. By the end of the film, Ron is a completely different character. The transformation of a person, both within the script and by the actor, is what makes this movie worthwhile.
In 1985, Ron Woodroof is diagnosed with AIDS and quickly loses all aspects of his prior life. His job, friends, and lifestyle snaps away from him as he deals with physical and emotional demands of the disease. He desperately looks for a cure and researches various medications. By doing so, he uncovers a new purpose for his life. He travels to Mexico and other countries, smuggling in non-approved FDA drugs, and forming a close companionship with Rayon (Jared Leto). He creates a new business selling the medication and an entirely new meaning to his life.
The script is written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack. Their writing of Ron’s character, supported by a fantastic representation of him by Matthew McConaughey, is where this movie excels. The capability to turn such a repulsive individual into a spirited and caring person is amazing writing. Showing the many flaws Ron has at the beginning sets up the change that must occur for him to have a full character arc, not to mention being pleasing to the audience. What’s so great about this script, though, is that Ron doesn’t abandon his negative traits throughout the film. By the end, a lot of what you disliked about his demeanor is still there. It is the acts he pursues and the tolerance he gains that makes him an empathetic character. You see Ron early on with a strong homophobic nature that’s backed by his friends, fueling their ignorant lifestyle. As with much of the population during the 80’s, the onset of the AIDS virus was closely linked to homosexuals. So when Ron contracts HIV, he’s outcast immediately by his friends and all those around him. Though Ron’s phobia does secede, his distain is simply transferred from homosexuals to the FDA; the annoying and obnoxious tendencies are still imbedded within his personality.
The only way a character who is this well written can be fully realized by the audience is through the acting of him, and McConaughey delivered it spectacularly. The resurgence in his career was heightened with this performance. The transformation he personally went through, going from the pole-dancing, muscle toned heartthrob in “Magic Mike” to this skinny, arrogant Texan is only matched by the transformation he brought about in Ron as well. Feeling dislike for a character is proof of great acting just as much as relatability or compassion for one. What’s best about McConaughey’s performance is how he provokes such distain throughout the film, but also creating care for him at the end. He wasn’t the only extraordinary actor in this movie. Jared Leto playing the cross-dressing, AIDS patient alongside Ron gives a marvelous performance. Rayon is what pulls Ron out of his former life and into the new one. Leto plays the role of Rayon as the antithesis of Ron’s personality. He does it so well that the characters’ personality conflict is immediately noticed. It sets up the perfect obstacle of both characters to overcome and gives the story more depth.
Great acting of well written characters provides essential groundwork for movies, but the theme is what gives a film it’s core. “Dallas Buyers Club” shows the importance of companionship and uses this as it’s theme. It also conveys how important it is to give people the chance to become more than what is initially felt about them. It would have been so easy to write off Ron at the beginning of this film, but he redeems his former life by helping others. He also sees how much he needed Rayon to deal with his virus and continue living his life, even though his initial thoughts about Rayon repulsed Ron. You give Ron the chance to overcome his perceived downfalls as he gives Rayon a chance as well. Not judging by initial impressions, giving people chances; these are things that translate wonderfully in film as well as in life. Keep yourself open and look for the best in everything, regardless of the circumstances.