Sunday, 9 February 2014

"Welcome to the Dallas Buyer's Club."

"Let me give y'all a little news flash. There ain't nothin' out there can kill fuckin' Ron Woodroof in 30 days."

Yesterday, seeing as I've made it a mission in my life to watch all of the Oscars Best Picture nominees before the awards show, I went to see Dallas Buyer's Club. I came out of the movie feeling emotional, conflicted, kind of angry and also with this peaceful sense that I'd just had a bucketful of incredible life lessons thrown at me.

"I swear it, Ray, God sure was dressin' the wrong doll when he blessed you with a set of balls."

Usually it take me a while to feel I want to write about a book, an experience or a movie. Not this time. I was composing sentences of this post in my head as I walked out of the cinema, scribbling notes on my phone as I raced home and grabbing my laptop as soon as I got through the front door.

"I've been looking for you, lone star."

The story of Ron Woodroof, played by Matthew McConaughey, follows a homophobic Texan cowboy through his diagnosis with HIV, his denial and anger, his fight with the state and the government's medical authorities over non approved but life saving drugs, his friendships, loves and losses and his complex path to increasing acceptance and tolerance of difference.

"Oh, I'm the drug dealer? No, you're the fuckin' drug dealer. I mean, goddamn, people are dyin'. And y'all are up there afraid that we're gonna find an alternative without you."

It deals with the "othering" and cruel, thoughtless rejections he experiences from people he thought were his friends. It discusses the pointlessness and corruption - or maybe just simple incompetence - of the federal response to the AIDS crisis. It handles all of the sudden messiness of an illness that seems to spring out of nowhere and the horror of fighting something so insidious all the while with the society you live in blaming and passing judgement on you for your perceived "wrongdoings;" with no one on your team, no one in your corner.

Rayon: "This guy says that the Florida Buyers Club is cheaper."
Ron: "Well then, tell him to go back to the FUCKIN' SUNSHINE STATE!"

It's no spoiler to the film to state that Ron does eventually pass away - because while HIV does not constitute a death sentence (although being born of course does...) it does bring your unavoidable and final end that bit closer.

"A little tequila, sunshine and tacos never hurt anybody."

Essentially, in my opinion, death is one of the least fucked-up elements of the condition of being human. All I or anyone else can promise you that is completely and inescapably true, is the fact that one day you will cease to be alive, just like everyone else who has ever taken a breath on this earth.

"Would you stop starin' at her tits, Rayon, you're startin' to look normal."

This truth should, rationally, be followed by the acceptance of its inevitability. But humans are scared by death. We spend our lives running from it, grieving it, crying over it and yet we are still somehow still surprised when it catches up with us or those we love.

"That shit is purer than a preacher daughter's pussy, right there."

I have more familiarity than I would like with death. I don't claim to know very much about the HIV virus or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) but I have seen several of my family members lose their battles with cancer, with liver disease and organ failure and simply with old age. I've held their hands while they lay in hospital or hospice beds and I think this qualifies me enough to say that the film's depiction of these realities was accurate and moving.

"You know what? You don't deserve my money, you homophobic asshole."

I know what dying people look like: the way their muscles shrink and their yellowing skin shrivels, hanging from skinny limbs. I know the smells and sounds of hospitals: antibacterial hand soaps, the harsh stench of medicines, steadily sloshing drips and the glugging churn and whir of dialysis systems. I've seen their tired, reddening eyes grow a little more scared with each slow, painful day until the blissful relief of unconsciousness. And while it was sad to see these facts reflected back from a cinema screen, it's also a relief to remember how normal, how everyday and unremarkable even, it all is.

"Mr Woodroof, I'm afraid that you're nothing more than a common drug dealer..."

However, watching this film also reminded me of how much the benefits are worth the effort of being aware and careful of what you put into your body. You shouldn't be blindly trusting of what anyone else tells you about something as personal as your own health, your own existence, your own death, in fact.  Not doctors, not governments - as no one knows better what is best for you and what your own unique and individual cells and tissues need than you yourself do. Having independence over what you allow to go into your system completely affects your power to control how you feel and how well or sick you are.

"I like your style, doc."

I loved so much about Dallas Buyer's Club. I loved the script and the moments when I laughed, the scenes that made me cry, the actors - including Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner - being amazing and vulnerable and real at the same time as playing characters so flawed and deep and unconventional. I loved how graceful and kind they were to one another; how there was warmth and humour, love and family even in the middle of terrible pain and addiction and the random unfairness of disease.

"Congratulations... fuck off and go back to your bed."

Basically, what I'm trying to say, is that you should definitely not let my ramblings about death put you off and that you really, really, really need to see this film.


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