Dallas Buyers Club



Grim, intense movie tells a powerful, relevant true story.
  • Review Date: November 1, 2013
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 117 minutes

What parents need to know

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
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."
Not applicable
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.

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.

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?

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.
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.

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:November 1, 2013
DVD release date:February 4, 2014
Cast:Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Matthew McConaughey
Director:Jean-Marc Vallee
Studio:Focus Features
Run time:117 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:pervasive language, some strong sexual content, nudity and drug use

This review of Dallas Buyers Club was written by

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent Written byDan G. February 6, 2014

Probably should be NC-17, and certainly not for children

This movie has extremely explicit sexual scenes in it. There are graphic one night stands depicting people having sexual intercourse with full frontal male and female nudity, masterbation, homosexual behavior, and the vulgar and profane language common to R and NC-17 rated movies. The biggest problem with this movie is that even though it shows the extreme damages to individuals and society from irresponsible sexual behavior, it does not connect the dots, instead painting those that make extremely poor choices about their behavior as 'victims'. And not victims of the natural consequences of their own behavior, but victims of the establishment, or 'the man'. The message is clearly, "If you do stupid things, blame others when the consequences come back to bite you, never accept responsibility, and demand that others take responsibility for helping correct the problems that you created for yourself." Not a good message for children, even for adults.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
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. (There's one more brief sex scene later on.) It's an important story, excellently acted and directed. The script is terrific. It's moving and inspiring without being overly sentimental or manipulative. The arc of the main character is powerful and inspiring.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
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, though. That’s not to say that it isn’t good, because it is, but without the performances, it wouldn’t have been as good. There’s some nice directing and cool sound design, nonetheless, but it does go on for about ten minutes too many. There really isn’t much else to say about it. 8.3/10, great, one thumb up, above average, etc.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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