Monday 17 February 2014

Dallas Buyers' Club

It's 1985, and Ron Woodroof is a wiry, rodeo-lovin' electrician living the good life, up to his eyeballs in girls, gambling, drugs and alcohol - until the accidental discovery he's HIV positive.  Struggling against medical ignorance, prejudice and the legal system, Ron forms the Dallas Buyers Club while searching for medication to help his condition.

The story touches on a slew of hotly debated issues, including gay rights, the AIDS epidemic, the USA's Food and Drug Administration approval process and Big Pharma's motives, so it's not at all surprising that Dallas Buyers Club has stirred up controversy as well as awards buzz.  However, I think many viewers are focussing on their own agendas, and missing the point of the film entirely.

Dallas Buyer's Club is a small story set against an important historical moment.  It's not the story of the fight against AIDs - it's the story of a man ejected from the life he knows, and forced to completely change his behaviour and beliefs if he wants to survive.  Matthew McConaughey plays Ron with a cheeky swagger, allowing us to follow this somewhat repulsive character as he at first tries to outwit his disease, and then embraces knowledge and medication which will help him, and others, live with it.

Yes, it's a redemption tale, of sorts - but that does not devalue the film, nor lessen its emotional sensitivity or realism.  Funny, nuanced, and exceedingly well-performed by its two leads, Dallas Buyers Club may have a few flaws, but it's a wonderfully watchable film and should be highly recommended.

Enjoy true, one-man-against the world stories?  Milk follows the political career of Harvey Milk, the businessman-turned-activist who became the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States.  Featuring a stunning performance from Sean Penn, an incredible supporting cast, and a wide range of viewpoints on equal rights.

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