Thursday, February 6, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club

Dignity for All
By Jan McClure

Movie Review of
Dallas Buyers Club
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner

From the acting stand-point and the message it portrays, this is an excellent film.  I found the sexual content and the vulgar language quite disturbing, yet it put the emphasis on the chaos of the reckless straight and the gay sexual lifestyles, and it is based on a true story.

Ron Woodroof (played by Matthew McConaughey) is a tough Texan rodeo cowboy and an electrician.  Ron lives a life of sex, drugs and alcohol during the mid 1980’s.  We see Ron getting physically thinner and thinner.  (There was a point in the film where Matthew McConaughey was so emaciated that he looked like he actually had AIDS.)  When Ron finally goes to the doctor, he is told that he has the H.I.V. virus and has only 30 days to live.  He gets angry and accuses the doctors of mixing up the test results, insisting that he is straight and their is no way that he even associates with gays. 

For a few days, he continues with his partying lifestyle. However, reality starts to set in and he begins to research (at the library on microfilm) what drug treatments are available.  He learns that the United States doesn’t have many of the treatments that have found promising results.  He travels to Mexico and gets some treatment that does help him, so he decides to smuggle the treatments across the border. 

He meets a fellow AIDS patient named Rayon, who is transsexual, (played by Jared Leto). Ron determines that he can help him with his new “business” adventure.  They establish a “buyers club” where, for monthly dues, those who are H.I.V. positive can have access to the otherwise inaccessible drugs.  The club is run as a business and with much legal advice.  A friendship and bond develops between Rayon and Ron, with Ron keeping his macho distance. 

As the film progresses, we see a bond forming and we see Ron softening.  We see him changing from being a homo phobic to accepting these “fags” (as he calls them) as being humans too.  We see the prejudices that AIDS patients went through, both straight and gay.  The message that each human deserves dignity is very clear in this film. 

Another layer in the film portrays how the FDA runs drug trials and their side effects.   One of the young doctors, Dr. Eve Saks, (played by Jennifer Garner), is not happy with how the pharmaceutical companies handle new drug studies or of the FDA approval process.  It made me wonder what would be a proper way to handle this and what are the ethics involved.

The film was quite disturbing, but I found myself thinking about it for several days.  I like films that do this.  Even though in the film Ron never found God or repented from his sinful ways, he did have the decency to refrain from sex while being H.I.V. positive (until he found a woman who was also H.I.V. positive).  This conveys to the audience that chastity is possible, even though it didn't last long for the character. Maybe it planted a seed.

Ron also became friends with other gay men and was no longer accepted by his own straight friends. He learned that everyone was looking of the same thing: love and friendship. 

Towards the end of the film, Ron rallied for others to get the drugs they needed, to be educated and to find acceptance.  I found myself wishing that he would find the whole Truth, and what a good evangelizer he would have been had he been open to the Lord. 

What Ron discovered about gays can be a lesson for us as well.  Even though a homosexual lifestyle is not accepted by the Catholic Church as holy (not because we are homophobic but because all sex outside the bonds of marriage is sinful), we must treat each person with respect, dignity and Christian love.  We are all sinners and we are all called to repent, to turn away from that which is against God’s will.  Perhaps by living chaste, single Christians lives, our homosexual friends might discover other joyful ways to live and be set free, just like the many Saints who never got married.

On a side note, both actors, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto (who is straight but played a transsexual) gave amazing performances.  Their physical transformations of losing weight and their chemistry as friends came across the screen in a very believable way. 

Questions for youth groups, families, and other small group discussions (and we hope you will post a comment below!):
  1. As a Catholic, can you be friends with a someone who has a homosexual lifestyle?  If so, how do you continue your friendship, even if your values differ?
  2. Why is it inhumane to give some patients a placebo (sugar pill) and the others a potentially life-saving drug, for the sake of testing?
  3. Should drug trials continue even if the side effects are potentially fatal or harmful? Why or why not?

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