Dallas Buyers Club

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Dallas Buyers Club Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Grim, intense movie tells a powerful, relevant true story.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 117 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages
The main character learns to help himself and help others when no system is in place to do it for him. He goes against various laws, but the results of his actions are most certainly for the good. For AIDS patients, he advocates simple vitamins and proteins (as well as clean living and non-processed food) over harsher medicines. Ultimately the message is that when motivated, people can change for the better and fight for the greater good. There's also an anti-corporate message demonstrated through drug companies' heartless actions.
Positive Role Models & Representations
The main character transforms from a rotten person to a heroic one. He starts out as a homophobic, bigoted, promiscuous drug user. Over the course of the story, he learns to take care of himself, eat healthy, and learns to appreciate and love others regardless of who they are. Initially, his catalyst for helping others is to help himself and make money, but he eventually learns to see the good he is doing for others.
The main character often picks fights with others, especially in the first half of the movie. Much of the time, this doesn't result in anything except some threats or missed punches. In one fight, he gets punched and has a bloody mouth. He's also injured by an electric shock while on a job, and some blood is shown. Even during the second half, however, there is shouting and some showy threats. Characters' feeble and deteriorating conditions are arguably more upsetting than any acts of violence or aggression in the film.
The main character has sex with many partners, often unsafe. As the movie opens, he's seen having sex with two girls in the stadium, though it's mostly in close-up with no nudity shown. Later, a flashback shows him having sex with a woman with track marks on her arms; its how he contracted the HIV virus. After being diagnosed, the main character has spontaneous sex with a woman, also diagnosed with the virus. Some female toplessness is shown. The main character's bottom is shown, in another scene he is heard masturbating. There's also strong sexual innuendo, both gay and straight, throughout.
Language is much stronger in the movie's first half, before the character is reformed. It includes "f--k," "s--t," "c--ksucker," "p---y," "Goddamn," "son of a bitch," "hell," "dumbass," "motherf--ker," "a--hole," and "c--k," as well as racial and cultural slurs like "faggot," "homo," "chink," the "N" word, and "spic."
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Both the main character, Ron, and the secondary character, Rayon, are shown to be habitual drug users and/or drinkers. In the first half of the movie, Ron drinks heavily (mostly whisky), snorts cocaine, and smokes cigarettes. When Ron first starts taking AIDS meds, he abuses them and takes them with beer. Ron eventually recovers but Rayon keeps using throughout. We rarely see Rayon using, but Ron confronts Rayon about being high in some scenes. Hypo needles are shown, and AIDS medications are discussed at length.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dallas Buyers Club is an intense drama based on a true story about finding treatment for AIDs in the early days of the disease. The movie contains very strong subject matter overall -- including graphic unsafe sex, drug abuse, and bigotry -- but tells a powerful and relevant story. There's some fighting and threats, and a little blood. Some nudity is visible during sex scenes. Language is very strong, and includes several racial and homophobic slurs. Drugs are prevalent, both illegal recreational drugs and AIDS medicines, and characters often drink heavily, or abuse their meds with alcohol. Many characters smoke cigarettes.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11 and 16-year-old Written bylightworker23 December 29, 2013

Inspiring, well-made film with important message

Dallas Buyers Club is an inspiring film based on a true story. If you skip the two graphic sex scenes in the beginning, it's appropriate for 16 and up. (T... Continue reading
Parent of a 12-year-old Written byTimturk59 May 15, 2020

Good movie but not for under 18

I see the ratings of 4 on sex, language and drug use and I wonder what a movie has to have to get ratings of 5, from this review, I'd say it would have to... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byBestPicture1996 January 21, 2014

The McConaissance lives on

"Bernie," "Mud," "Wolf of Wall Street"...I said Matthew was on fire back when I saw "Mud," one of 2013's very best... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byB-KMastah November 23, 2013

Performance powerhouse.

McConaughey and Leto are terrific, and they’re easily the best part about the whole movie. That kind of says a bit about how most of the script isn’t as good, t... Continue reading

What's the story?

In the 1980s, Dallas good ol' boy Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is a rodeo cowboy and an electrician who loves to party and sleep with lots of women. A trip to the hospital after an accident at work reveals that he has the HIV virus. He learns that only an early, experimental drug is available. He obtains some illegally, but his source dries up. He finds an outcast doctor in Mexico who helps him learn about the benefits of simple proteins and vitamins. He also forms a friendship with a sick drag queen, Rayon (Jared Leto), who helps him overcome his homophobia. Together, they form a "buyers club," wherein other AIDS patients buy memberships to receive helpful medicines. But, the big drug companies are not happy about this.

Is it any good?

Many will be impressed by Matthew McConaughey's performance; the actor lost a great amount of weight and appears totally different. Likewise, Jared Leto clearly worked equally hard on his role as a drag queen. And the story they're telling is a powerful one; viewers of a younger generation may be interested -- and shocked -- to see how slowly drug companies reacted to the AIDS crisis and what ordinary people did to help themselves in that situation.
Director Jean-Marc Vallee, whose last movie was the bland costume epic The Young Victoria, films DALLAS BUYERS CLUB in a kind of grungy, muddy haze, perhaps trying to recall the look of 1980s home video. But this approach doesn't help the grim, queasy story about sickness go down any easier. The movie also takes many shortcuts, compressing and compacting its story down to manageable size. This technique squashes any potential moments of life, as well as making the main character's transformation seem too clean and abrupt.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the actions of the drug companies and the FDA as portrayed in this movie. Were they doing the best they could? Or was business (and profits) getting in the way of helping people?
  • Even though Ron Woodroof more or less broke the law, is he still a hero?
  • How does Ron Woodroof's bad behavior (drinking, smoking, unsafe sex, etc.) in the movie's first half affect his character overall? How does the Ron Woodroof character overcome his homophobia? How does the "Rayon" character help this?
  • What's the movie's position on AIDS treatment? Does the movie advocate healthy living over hospitals and prescription drugs? Where do the two meet?

Movie details

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