Dec 17, 2013

The Wife was wary

Of witnessing Dallas Buyer's Club.  And, I can not blame her for having those feelings.  It is the holidays.  We both work in retail, and her job is v stressful, and we do not get a whole lot of time together, just the two of us.  Plus, Dallas Buyer's Club is not by any stretch your typical holiday movie fare.

In addition to her worries about the sadness and "heaviosity" of such a film, I also suspect that she really did not want to see the beautiful Matthew McConaughey portraying a tragic wasting AIDS victim.  Or Jared Leto, for that matter.  I tried to suggest to her that regardless of the sadness and pain displayed, that ultimately this was a really very beautiful story about some frankly heroic people that educated themselves and fought for their survival, and others like them, and for the survival of all the others that would be afflicted long after they had passed away.  

And, even though I never mentioned it to her, it is one of the main points of the film that it was exactly that so many beautiful young men like McConaughey and Leto, who were not movie stars or rock stars, did die in the brutal first waves of this tragic pandemic.  

Yet, as moved as I was by sections and/or moments in Dallas Buyer's Club, it still ultimately fell prey to the problems with biopic filmmaking.  Sometimes the documentary footage is just bound to be more powerful.  Seeing documentary footage of the NAMES Project quilt being displayed on the Washington Mall in 1987, or "reading" the special November 1989 issue of the Bay Area Reporter wherein they provided photographs of all the San Franciscans that had died of AIDS that year, is heartbreakingly a much more potent and poignant experience than seeing Dallas Buyer's Club, for all its merits.

Bay Area Reporter, November 1989.

I had the same issue with Gus Van Sant's very fine film, Milk.  (And, I was extremely pleased to see Sean Penn win Best Actor, too.) But, the finest moment in Van Sant's biopic is the opening credits, which is pre-Stonewall documentary footage of gays being rousted out of gay bars; harassed and beaten.  The rest of the film was never as gripping or important.

Dallas Buyer's Club did do one very important thing, though.  It made Renee want to learn more about the pandemic in real time, so to speak.  She wanted to learn more about the early days of the pandemic and what was actually being done to fight it.

So, I played We Were Here for her last night.  I have already spoke of this masterful documentary in this space before.  Here, and here.  The Wife han't seen it before, so last night was a revelation for her.

Which is what makes Dallas Buyer's Club worth it in the end.  That this film can bring greater awareness and empathy to the awful AIDS pandemic, and tell the stories of the innumerable heroes that struggle every single day to vanquish this wretched blight, well, than that is enough.

All my love,

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