Exploring the art of storytelling.
When I first heard about “Dallas Buyers Club,” I didn’t know if I would like it and was hesitant to watch it. But after all the Oscar buzz regarding the film, I decided that I should at least give it a try, and I’m glad I did.
Let’s start with the opening scene. “Dallas Buyers Club” opened in a bull riding arena. A bull was released into the ring, and in the background we heard grunts. At first, I assumed it was just background noise, a part of the wild event. We soon discovered that the sound was coming from Matthew McConaughey and his two female scene partners. While the visual was a bit vulgar, it was essential to this story. It introduced us to Ron (played by McConaughey), the main character. As soon as the film opened, I received my first impression of Ron. I understood what he did with his time and where he was from. On a technical level, the grunting sounds mixed with the choppy visuals was a great combination. These two sensory elements were in sync with one another, embodying the setting of this film. I was very impressed with the opening scene. It was a great choice made by the writers (Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack), director (Jean-Marc Vallée), and production staff because it immediately introduced us to the protagonist and his environment.
The technical team did a superb job in using sounds to enhance their storytelling. A frequent example was the high-pitched ringing noise that accompanied Ron every time he passed out. The noise reminded me of the alert sounds on heart monitors and other medical devices, immediately linking the sound to Ron’s health and alerting us that he was in danger. This added auditory element made the moment even more frightening. The sound was unpleasant which caused me to fear for Ron and sympathize with the suffering man.
In all of the movies and TV shows I have watched and books I have read, I have never sympathized with a character so easily as I did with Ron. When the film opened, I was not very found of Ron. He was a man far different from myself with different morals and values. He and I would never get along in a million years. But when tragedy strikes, we realize that all humans are innately the same, sharing the same fears and desires. As soon as Ron received news of his diagnosis, he started to turn his life around. He grew more accepting of others, took pride in his physical well-being, and even became a hero. I relished watching Ron’s character develop. I became proud of his accomplishments and respected him on a deep level. For not giving a damn about Ron in the beginning, I began wanting him to succeed, wanting him to recover. Ron was a true hero who cared deeply for others and asked for nothing in return. While he may have lived a life far different from mine, I have never felt so strongly about a character before. I applaud the writers, Borten and Wallack, and the director, Vallée, for creating a character that I grew to accept and wanted to succeed.
An aspect of the film that I found really interesting was the portrayal of the FDA and their involvement in the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. Not being alive during the 80s, I had no idea as to how bad the AIDS situation was. All I knew was that people were dying at very high rates. After watching “Dallas Buyers Club,” I now know that this was because of the lack of education and medical support for the disease. I thought it was very interesting to see how the FDA played a big role in this- at least in Ron’s story. The comparison between the treatment opportunities in other countries and the US also had me curious about healthcare today. “Dallas Buyers Club” was a fascinating commentary that kept my interest throughout the film.
My only complaint is a technical one. The cinematography of “Dallas Buyers Club” was very choppy. I believe that Vallée made this decision to signify the time-lapse during the film and the effects of a debilitating disease on daily life. Unfortunately, I felt that some of the transitions between scenes were a bit too choppy. These instances took me out of the world of the story as I would try to figure out where we were in time and space. Overall, it just made the timing of the story confusing. One example was when Ron was in the hospital after passing out from his stolen AZT. There, he met Rayon for the first time. Ron and Rayon played cards. The scene ended with a shot of Ron turning his head to look out into the hallway. The next shot showed Eve in the hallway speaking with another doctor. Immediately, I thought Ron was looking at her; however, as the shot progressed, it was revealed that this was an entirely different scene. Ron was completely dressed and walking out of the hospital. This transition confused me a bit while I tried to figure out how much time had passed. I can understand why Vallée choose to film in this choppy manner; however, I don’t think it came across well during some transitions such as this one.
“Dallas Buyers Club” has become one of my all-time favorite movies. While I was skeptical at first, I’m glad I trusted the critics because I have fallen in love with the main character and his story. I recommend that everyone see it. It is both an informative film and a great analysis of human nature.