Movie Reviews

‘Dallas Buyers Club’: The ugly-to-wounded story of an AIDS sufferer

By Hidzir JunainiMovies - 22 January 2014 12:00 AM | Updated 12 February 2014

‘Dallas Buyers Club’: The ugly-to-wounded story of an AIDS sufferer

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Rating: 4 / 5 stars 

Once known primarily as the dashing blonde with Greek-god abs and a twinkling smile, Matthew McConaughey has carved out quite a foolproof niche for himself in Hollywood (much like Hugh Grant), recycling the same role in various films over his two-decade career. 

And unlike mortal men, McConaughey never seem to age, growing more sculpted and handsome as each year passes. 

Then over the last couple of years, something strange happened.

We began seeing McConaughey tackling meatier parts with relish, flexing dormant dramatic muscles that we never knew existed.

Somewhere along the line, he decided to be an actor who was to be taken very seriously, and ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ is set to be his crowning achievement during this unexpected renaissance (catch him as the haunted leading man in HBO’s ‘True Detective’ for more proof).


Much of the talk will undoubtedly be on his startling ‘Machinist’-esque transformation from buff beach bum to a scrawny, skeletal figure to tell the real-life story of Ron Woodroof.

But more than a simple physical transformation, it is McCounaghey’s ability to convey Woodroof’s best and worst qualities, displaying raw bouts of desperation, fear and anger along with inherent charm that is most remarkable.

Woodroof was a man who handled his AIDS affliction with as much grace and determination as any human could muster, and you can tell McConaughey took every effort to do the man’s story justice. But that’s not to say that the guy was without his flaws.

When movie-viewers first meet Woodroof, he is about as loathsome as they come. The film takes a warts-and-all approach when depicting his degenerate tendencies as a typical Texan who has a rampant addiction to sex, drugs and alcohol, as well as a vitriolic hate for homosexuals. 

Homophobia was common at that time and territory, and since the sexual diseases of HIV and AIDS were simply recognised as the “gay disease” during the mid-1980s, Woodroof’s diagnosis ensured he was subjected to much cruelty along with the prerequisite shock and depression. 

Battling bureaucratic red tape among other things, he sets about becoming his own physician with astounding success. Woodruff is still around years after his 30-day “death sentence”, thanks to his own cocktail of medication. 

This inspires him to set up the titular Dallas Buyers Club, where he sells medication to other HIV and AIDS sufferers. In the process, he develops a kinship with his customers and learns to be compassionate towards a group of people he once despised. 

dallas buyers club
Jared Leto (left) with Matthew McConaughey


The relationship between Woodruff and his transsexual business partner Raylon is the film’s most interesting journey.

It is a friendship that is hard-earned and carefully developed.

Portraying Raylon is Jared Leto in his first acting role in five years (he has been preoccupied with his band Thirty Seconds To Mars), and impressively, Leto turns in a performance that is just as incredible and immersive as McConaughey’s.

Seeing these two actors rediscover their thespian roots is a pleasure — a pleasure that is magnified by the rich material they have been given here.

‘Dallas Buyers Club’ opens in cinemas 24 January 2014


Formerly the Music Editor of Juice Magazine, Hidzir Junaini is now a writing ronin by day and vampire slayer by night. Subsisting only on coffee and naivety, the 27-year-old scribe aspires to finally complete his long-gestating novel to lukewarm reviews some time in the near future. Until then, he may be found writing about film, music, nightlife and television with the misplaced confidence unique to most mass communications graduates.