Dallas Buyers Club
|Dallas Buyers Club|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jean-Marc Vallée|
|Produced by||Robbie Brenner
|Written by||Craig Borten
|Edited by||John Mac McMurphy
|Distributed by||Focus Features (USA/Latin America)
Entertainment One (UK)
|Running time||116 minutes|
Dallas Buyers Club is a 2013 American biographical drama film directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack. Matthew McConaughey stars as the real-life AIDS patient Ron Woodroof, who smuggled unapproved pharmaceutical drugs into Texas when he found them effective at improving his symptoms, and distributed them to fellow sufferers by establishing the "Dallas Buyers Club" while facing opposition from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Dallas Buyers Club premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and was released theatrically on November 1, 2013; it entered wide release on November 22. The film received acclaim from critics and won numerous accolades; most recognized the performances of McConaughey and Jared Leto, who respectively earned the Academy Award for Best Actor and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, making this the first film since Mystic River (2003), and only the fifth movie to win both awards. The film also won Best Makeup and Hairstyling at the 86th Academy Awards, and received Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing nominations. The film grossed over $55 million in box office revenue against a budget of $5 million.
In 1985, Dallas electrician and rodeo cowboy Ron Woodroof is diagnosed with AIDS and given 30 days to live. He initially refuses to accept the diagnosis, but remembers having unprotected sex with an intravenous drug-using prostitute. Ron quickly finds himself ostracized by family and friends, gets fired from his job, and is eventually evicted from his home. At the hospital, he is tended to by Dr. Eve Saks, who tells him that they are testing a drug called zidovudine (AZT), an antiretroviral drug which is thought to prolong the life of AIDS patients—and which is the only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for testing on humans. Saks informs him that in the clinical trials, half the patients receive the drug and the other half are given a placebo, as this is the only way they can determine if the drug is working.
Ron bribes a hospital worker to get him the AZT. As soon as he begins taking it, he finds his health deteriorating (exacerbated by his cocaine use). When Ron returns to the hospital, he meets Rayon, a drug addict, and HIV-positive trans woman, toward whom he is hostile. As his health worsens, Ron drives to a Mexican hospital to get more AZT. Dr. Vass, who has had his American medical license revoked, tells Ron that the AZT is "poisonous" and "kills every cell it comes into contact with". He instead prescribes him ddC and the protein peptide T, which are not approved in the US. Three months later, Ron finds his health much improved. It occurs to him that he could make money by importing the drugs and selling them to other HIV-positive patients. Since the drugs are not illegal, he is able to get them over the border by masquerading as a priest and swearing that they are for personal use. Meanwhile, Dr. Saks also begins to notice the negative effects of AZT, but is told by her supervisor Dr. Sevard that it cannot be discontinued.
Ron begins selling the drugs on the street. He comes back into contact with Rayon, with whom he reluctantly sets up business since she can bring many more clients. The pair establish the "Dallas Buyers Club", charging $400 per month for membership, and it becomes extremely popular. Ron gradually begins to respect Rayon and think of her as a friend. When Ron has a heart attack, Sevard learns of the club and the alternative medication. He is angry that it is interrupting his trial, while Richard Barkley of the FDA confiscates the ddC and threatens to have Ron arrested. Saks agrees that there are benefits to Buyers clubs (of which there are several around the country) but feels powerless to change anything. She and Ron strike up a friendship.
Barkley gets a police permit to raid the Buyers Club, but can do nothing but give Ron a fine. In 1987, the FDA changes its regulations such that any unapproved drug is also illegal. As the Club runs out of funds, Rayon—who is addicted to cocaine—begs her father for money and tells Ron that she has sold her life insurance policy to raise money. Ron is thus able to travel to Mexico and get more of the peptide T. When he returns, Ron finds that Rayon has died after being taken to hospital and given AZT. Saks is also upset by Rayon's death, and she is asked to resign when the hospital discovers that she is linking her patients with the Buyers Club. She refuses to comply and insists that she would have to be fired.
As time passes, Ron shows compassion towards gay, lesbian, and transgender members of the club and making money becomes less of a concern – his priority is provision of the drugs. Peptide T gets increasingly difficult to acquire, and in 1987 he files a lawsuit against the FDA. He seeks the legal right to take the protein, which has been confirmed as non-toxic but is still not approved. The judge is compassionate toward Ron and admonishes the FDA, but lacks the legal tools to do anything. As the film ends, on-screen text reveals that the FDA later allowed Ron to take peptide T for personal use and that he died of AIDS in 1992, seven years later than his doctors initially predicted.
- Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof
- Jennifer Garner as Dr. Eve Saks
- Jared Leto as Rayon
- Denis O'Hare as Dr. Sevard
- Steve Zahn as Tucker
- Michael O'Neill as Richard Barkley
- Dallas Roberts as David Wayne
- Griffin Dunne as Dr. Vass
- Kevin Rankin as T. J.
- Adam Dunn (cameo) as a bartender
- Bradford Cox as "Sunflower" (Rayon's lover)
Woodroof was the subject of a lengthy 1992 article in The Dallas Morning News written by journalist and author Bill Minutaglio. A month before Woodroof died in September 1992, screenwriter Craig Borten interviewed him to create the screenplay; Borten recorded many hours of interviews with Woodroof and had access to his personal journals. Borten drafted 10 different scripts for what he believed would make a great movie and attempted to attract interest in making the film in the mid 1990s, with Dennis Hopper to direct and Woody Harrelson as Woodroof, but the film was unable to secure financial backing. Jared Leto has admitted that he was sent a script but never read it.
In the late 1990s, Marc Forster was approached to direct and Brad Pitt was to play the role of Woodroof, but script and personnel delays kept the film from being produced and both Pitt and Forster eventually moved on. Dallas Buyers Club, by 2008, had become Hollywood's longest stalled script when director Craig Gillespie and Ryan Gosling were then in talks with the producers until Jean-Marc Vallée and Matthew McConaughey signed up. Woodroof's sister was reportedly pleased with the casting of McConaughey as Woodroof because he had a similar swagger and personality. She had shown concern earlier in the development process when Pitt and Gosling were attached, due to their personalities not matching Woodroof's.
McConaughey lost 47 pounds (21 kg) for the role, going from 183 pounds (83 kg) to 136 pounds (62 kg). He reportedly stayed indoors in his Texas mansion for six months to become paler and ceased socializing and had to find new ways to entertain himself, which made him "smarter". When he reached as low as 143 lbs, his eyesight began to fail. He began to feel extremely weak to the point that he would be sore from doing five push-ups and his legs would lock up after running 30 feet. Leto lost over 30 pounds (14 kg) for the role and confessed to having stopped eating to lose weight quicker; his lowest record weight was 114 pounds (52 kg).
Principal photography began on November 11, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Filming also took place in Baton Rouge. Jennifer Garner has stated that the film was shot very quickly over just 25 days and has remarked that McConaughey "gave an even wilder performance in takes that didn't appear onscreen". McConaughey stated that "I was riding a new way of making a film. There were no lights, one camera, 15-minute takes." Half of the shots were lit with artificial light and the other half were not. Vallée said: "I now had a perfect opportunity to try to shoot an entire movie without artificial lights, using the Alexa digital camera. Like the RED, the Alexa offers a broad spectrum of colors and shadows in even the darkest natural lighting conditions. I felt that the approach was right for this project. The look and feel became that we were capturing reality; even though Dallas Buyers Club is not a documentary in content or structure, it could have that subtle quality. We shot the movie 100% handheld with two lenses, a 35-millimeter and a 50-millimeter. These get close to the actors and don't skew the images. [Director of Photography] Yves Belanger adjusted for every shot at 400 or 1600 ASA [camera speed], displaying different color balance."
The first trailer was launched on August 27, 2013. The film premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, followed by a release on November 1, 2013. The film was nominated for the Marc Aurèle d'or at the 2013 International Rome Film Festival. Dallas Buyers Club was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 4, 2014.
As of May 1, 2014, Dallas Buyers Club has grossed $27,298,285 in North America and $27,900,000 in foreign countries, for a total worldwide gross of $55,198,285.
Upon its premiere at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, Dallas Buyers Club received universal acclaim by critics and audiences, who greatly praised the film for its acting (particularly for McConaughey and Leto), screenplay and direction. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 93% based on reviews from 177 critics, with an average score of 7.7 out of 10, with the site's consensus stating, "Dallas Buyers Club rests squarely on Matthew McConaughey's scrawny shoulders, and he carries the burden gracefully with what might be a career-best performance." On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 reviews from film critics, the film has a rating score of 84 based on 45 reviews, indicating universal acclaim.
Richard Corliss of Time magazine considered McConaughey's portrayal to be a "bold, drastic and utterly persuasive inhabiting of a doomed fighter", remarking that "if the camera occasionally suffers a fashionable case of the jitters, the movie transcends its agitated verismo to impart dramatic and behavioral truth".
Leto's portrayal of Rayon, a drug-addicted trans woman with AIDS who befriends McConaughey's character Ron Woodroof, received critical acclaim. The writers created Rayon, to show "Woodroof’s gradual acceptance of a subculture he had dismissed." Time's Richard Corliss noted, "Leto captures the sweet intensity and almost saintly good humor of a glamorous, poignant and downright divoon creature — a blithe Camille who may surrender her health but never her panache." Leto was awarded an Academy Award, Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a variety of film critics' circle awards. After the 86th Academy Awards ceremony, the casting of a non-transgender actor was critiqued as a missed opportunity, with some LGBT activists criticizing the choice as misogynistic. A guest blogger published on the L.A. Times website compared the issue to white actors appropriating, and exploiting, the roles of East Asians and Africans in the past; and guest contributors noted in The Guardian and The Independent that transgender actors are often relegated to roles such as prostitutes, corpses and "freaks."
Dallas Buyers Club received six nominations at the 86th Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor for McConaughey, Best Supporting Actor for Leto, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing for Martin Pensa and Vallée (Vallée being credited under the pseudonym "John Mac McMurphy"), and Best Makeup and Hairstyling for Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews. McConaughey and Leto won Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively – the first film since Mystic River 10 years earlier to receive both awards and only the fifth overall to do so. Lee and Mathews won the Academy Award for Best Makeup, although Mathews had a budget of only $250.
The film received two Screen Actors Guild Awards, for Best Actor (McConaughey) and Best Supporting Actor (Leto); it was also nominated for Best Cast. At the 71st Golden Globe Awards McConaughey and Leto again won Best Actor – Motion Picture – Drama and Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture respectively. The film was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Writers Guild of America Awards, while Leto's performance won a range of awards from critics groups, including the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. The National Board of Review named Dallas Buyers Club one of the top ten independent films of 2013.
The characters of Rayon and Dr. Eve Saks were fictional; the writers had interviewed transgender AIDS patients, activists, and doctors for the film and combined these stories to create the two composite supporting roles. However, Woodroof did lose all his friends after they found out he was HIV-positive. In his interviews with Borten, Woodroof implied that this, along with interactions with gay people living with AIDS through the buyers club, led to a rethinking of his apparent anti-gay sentiments and changed his views on gay people. Other people who knew him said that he did not harbor anti-gay sentiments and was himself bisexual. Also, while a rodeo enthusiast, he never rode any bulls himself. Although the film shows Woodroof diagnosed in 1985, he told Borten that a doctor had informed him he might have had the disease well before that; Woodroof believed he may have been infected in 1981, something that was briefly alluded to in a flashback in the film.
While Woodroof was known for outlandish behavior, according to those who knew him, both the film and McConaughey made him rougher than he actually was, describing him as "outrageous, but not confrontational" and not as obviously anti-gay earlier in his life. The real Woodroof also had an ex-wife, Brenda, a daughter and a sister who were not approached by the writers and were left out of the script to make the film more of a character study.
- "Sweet Thang" by Shuggie Otis – 4:09
- "Following Morning" by The Naked And Famous – 5:03
- "Hell and Back" by The Airborne Toxic Event – 3:52
- "Ready to Be Called On" by My Morning Jacket – 3:46
- "Life of the Party" by Blondfire – 3:23
- "The Walker" (Ryeland Allison remix) by Fitz And The Tantrums – 3:28
- "Shudder to Think" by Tegan & Sara – 3:24
- "Mad Love" (Acoustic) by Neon Trees – 3:39
- "Main Man" (T. Rex cover) by Portugal. The Man – 6:15
- "Stayin' Alive" (Bee Gees cover) by Capital Cities – 4:03
- "Romance Languages" by Cold War Kids – 2:52
- "Burn It Down" (Innerpartysystem remix) by Awolnation – 4:56
- "After the Scripture" by Manchester Orchestra – 4:36
- "City of Angels" (Acoustic) by Thirty Seconds To Mars – 4:29
- "Main Man" by T. Rex – 4:13
- "Life Is Strange" by T. Rex – 2:32
- "Ballrooms of Mars" by T. Rex
- "Prélude" by Alexandra Streliski
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- ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ may play fast-and-loose with facts, but those who lived it say its portrait of a man driven to save lives during the AIDS crisis is just right
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|Academy Award winner for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor||Succeeded by
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