If you could get a group of carpetbagger/prize-fighter magazine writers (writers who speculate and analyze the awards races) together and ask them to name all the things that would cook up an Oscars victory pie, Dallas Buyers Club would be the entire ingredients list. The film is the true story of Ron Woodruff, a rowdy homophobic electrician who has engaged in all sorts of promiscuous activities throughout his life ranging from all kinds of hard drugs, unprotected sex with every woman he meets, and getting into fights. He’s a real macho cowboy, spitting out curse words at the drop of a hat and never listening to anyone’s advice but his own. This overconfidence and undisciplined behavior however must come to halt, as Ron is informed he has contracted the HIV virus. At first of course, he’s defiant, cursing out the doctors because well, “There ain’t nothin’ out there can kill fuckin’ Ron Woodroof in 30 days.” As the days go by however, the reality starts to sink in, the sickness starts to get worse, and Ron realizes he’s out of options. But being the all-American he is, and being that this would never be turned into a end-of-the-year Hollywood Story without a comeback, Ron decides to take his disease into his own hands and get himself cured through any method, even illegal ones.
Dallas Buyers Club in a sense is what Hollywood cinema is all about. It is also what Oscar cinema is all about. It is a movie which released in the exact span of time when every blogger, magazine writer, and TV personality is talking about the naked gold men and who will get to take them home. For films like this, the awards are the merits. They are the validations. It was born to ride a tidal wave of awards glory and most likely disappear into the abyss other than being known as the film that turned Matthew McConaughey into a serious actor. It’s a success story, as Ron doesn’t just help himself get better, but even starts a club (the film’s namesake) to give people all over the state of Texas struck with HIV a chance to live. It’s a film of self-redemption, as a vicious homophobic electrician and rodeo cowboy, Ron finds his only source of comfort and friendship in a transvestite prostitute named Rayon and builds such a bond, that he turns to defend homosexuals from his bigoted community. It is a comeback story, not just in the narrative but in its casting as well; Jared Leto gives a comeback performance (after a 5 year hiatus) for the ages a la Mickey Rourk in The Wrestler that would make anyone root for the guy and his career’s revival.
Dallas Buyers Club, from a standpoint purely of cinema, is nothing to write home about. It’s narrative trajectory, coupled with the grainy and dignified cinematography is no different from previous Oscar-bait dramas like Argo, The Fighter, or The Reader, and composes itself in the most comforting manner, offering no ounce of originality in its artistry. All that is just as well, because from the get go, this was strictly a by-the-books Hollywood feel good story with incredibly pronounced acting by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto that will make its mark simply by the awards it wins. Those awards (majority of them going to the two aforementioned actors) are the films merits, cinematic qualities, and essentially its main reason for existence.