I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems that we don’t hear a lot about AIDS anymore. As someone who has grown up in the age of it, I remember when it was the big topic and no one really knew what it was or how to cure it. Granted I was about 10 years old when the Rock Hudson announcement came out, but it was probably the hot topic in the news for quite some time. Later, in my Freshman year of college, I remember when Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive. That, I think, really brought AIDS into the limelight and made it a lot more real for the rest of us. But lately, as in the the last ten or fifteen years, you just don’t really hear a lot about the virus. Magic Johnson is still alive, over twenty years since his announcement. Is it just not the hot topic it once was? Nevertheless, Dallas Buyers Club doesn’t take place now, rather in the mid 80’s when AIDS was still new and no one knew how to deal with it.
The film focuses on Rod Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey), an electrician and part-time bull rider. Ron’s no model citizen, he drinks, smokes, does drugs and engages in unprotected sex. He learns that he has AIDS and that his T cell count is 9 (healthy adults have counts ranging from 500-1500) and is given a mere 30 days to live. Ron, an opportunist, manages to get his hands on some AZT, the only known and approved drug to combat AIDS, but finds himself worse off than before. Finding himself in a Mexican doctor’s office, he’s nursed back to health on a diet of vitamins by Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne), someone who has lost his medical license in the US. Ron then has the idea to capitalize on this “cocktail” of drugs and vitamins and sets up a “Buyers Club.” He’d give away the drugs for free, but would charge for membership. It’s a hit and it’s not long before he’s doing battle with the FDA. All the while his physician, Dr. Saks (Jennifer Garner) and newfound confidant, Rayon (Jared Leto) do their part to help make his venture a success.
Like many great movies, Dallas Buyers Club is an interesting story with some outstanding performances. I’ve been a fan of McConaughey for some time and I’ll say that this is, far and away, his greatest performance. Likewise Jared Leto, who hasn’t been in a film in 6 years (he’s been touring with his band) has brought his A game as well. Slightly unused is Jennifer Garner’s character. Unlike the two male leads, I can see pretty much any actress filling her role and doing it quite nicely. She’s not bad, by any means, but she just doesn’t stand out compared to her counterparts. The film has been nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Picture. While I don’t think it has a shot at Best Picture, McConaughey and Leto are odds on favorites to take home statues come Oscar night. Dallas Buyers Club is well-made, heart wrenching at times and a snapshot of a time when the world hardly knew of what was ahead in the war on AIDS. Highly recommended.
Video: How’s it look?
Watching Dallas Buyers Club gave me a sense at how spoiled we’ve become when it comes to what and how we watch things. This 2.40:1 AVC HD image looks the part and the image was so clear that I managed to find a few goofs (and I’m usually not one that looks for these sorts of things). For example, how clear does an image have to be that I noticed a “P” on McConaughey’s character’s sunglasses (the “P” meaning the lenses are polarized…which weren’t available in the mid 80’s)? There are some televisions that are way before their time as well. Still, the image is rock solid, by and large. We can see the emaciated characters that Leto and McConaughey play, the somewhat earthy palette used to represent mid 80’s Texas and the total lack of makeup on Jennifer Garner’s character. Contrast and black levels are both solid as well. I was impressed by the visuals here.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Traditionally dramas aren’t really made for sound, but there were a few scenes in this that really had me impressed. The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack does indeed have a few moments, namely early on when I noticed that my speakers were going crazy. Granted the music was kind of 80’s-ish country western, but still I was amazed at how good it sounded. The remainder of the movie is pretty much dialogue-driven and we don’t get McConaughey’s traditional vocals. Yes, this movie suits his accent perfectly, but he’s a lot more grounded here. Jared Leto’s vocals are a bit on the soft side, but then again as a man dressed as a woman, I’m guessing that’s what he was going for. Universal has done a fine job here and though it’s not meant to be the end all be all when it comes to robust audio, I was fairly impressed.
Supplements: What are the extras?
I’m assuming there was a rush to get this disc out while the Oscar season was in full swing, as such we don’t get a lot of supplemental material here.
Deleted Scenes – A few deleted scenes that didn’t make the final cut.
A Look Inside Dallas Buyers Club – A brief (4 minute) segment featuring some interviews with the stars of the film. Not much substance here.