Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dallas Buyers Club (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Dallas Buyers Club

Director Jean-Marc Vallee makes an almost subversive move in bringing to the mainstream an extremely homophobic man with AIDS who was nonetheless a trailblazer. "Dallas Buyers Club" is the true story of the late rodeo cowboy and electrician Ron Woodroof who contracted HIV through an afternoon of unprotected libertinage and ended up saving lives. Woodruff is played by Matthew McConaughey in a performance that is organic and seamless.

Woodruff is slender and tilted. He swaggers and is invariably dusty, looking like a Marlboro Man made of balsa wood. Day in and day out, Woodroof works with singed circuits. He tilts and leans in to the rodeo to relieve steam, and gets on a bull. The hard carnivorous charge of the animal, both inflames and appeases Woodroof's need for some sweaty and panting sex. Throughout the day, he often appears like an empty vacuous cloud, only animated during anonymous sex with strippers, grunting and roaring in synch to the bulls that  he dominates.

After trying to escape from some angry dudes and intentionally punching a cop, Woodroof collapses and is rushed to the hospital.

He finds that he is HIV+ and becomes enraged. This is the 80s after all and HIV was thought to be an almost exclusively homosexually-transmitted disease at the time.

Woodroof is given six months to live.

He then indulges in some wanton hedonism of drugs and sex, but instead of an escape, Woodroof gets increasingly sicker.

He goes to the library and HIV support groups, slinking in as an anonymous coyote. When confronted and complemented by men, he is aggressive and violent.

Woodroof lands in the hospital once more where he meets a drag performer Rayon (Jared Leto). Woodroof has an instant aversion to him, by Rayon's irrepressible spirit catches the constricted rambler off guard. The two bet on cards and the macho man loses.

Despite its occasionally dry documentary feel, there are some wonderfully solid outings, chiefly due to Leto and McConaughey who in their own way, deliver an off-kilter and quirky interpretation of "Brokeback Mountain" sans sex.

The most telling and poignant scene occurs when Woodroof physically defends Rayon, settling the score with a bigoted buddy (Steve Zahn)

Jennifer Garner gives a sincere, if safe performance as a doctor willing to give Woodroof a vital push.

The magnetism of "Dallas Buyers Club" comes from its lack of sentimentality and tame tugs and its agility in turning a hostile man in denim into a hero by lassoing the drug AZT and revealing it to the public as a toxic two-face. Woodroof might have started as a homophobic hombre, but he evolved into a better man and saved thousands of lives in dispensing several savior drugs such as Interferon and antiviral proteins, not yet approved in the mid 80s.

The film also subverts the cult movies in the manner of Peckinpah as this lone wolf runs from the FDA, but instead of dealing with double crossings of decapitations and severed limbs, this is a direct and forthright tale of a sunburned and desperate man against the system, not because of his own greed, but rather through a tragic and unforeseen war raging within his own body.

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1 comment:

Paula Angelique Hafner said...

I great story. Something that was not mentioned too much in the press. I have heard and read stories that the portrayal of AZT was a tad biased though.