Why the movie “Dallas Buyers Club” is a box-office hit – a movie review by Gary Smolker (December 26, 2013)

People’s Will to Survive and Thrive

“Dallas Buyers Club” is about the will to survive and thrive.

In “Dallas Buyers Club”, the star (Matthew McConaughey) is a man with magnificent courage who refuses to accept the diagnosis that he has 30 days to live because he has AIDS.

“Dallas Buyers Club”, which is based on a true story, follows what that man does after he is told he has 30 days or less to live.

In spite of the efforts of the US government to stop him, he prolongs his life for another seven years by self-medicating himself with medicines not approved by the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) and makes those medicines available to prolong the lives of others afflicted with AIDS.

In the “Dallas Buyers Club” information about a new drug and medical procedures for fighting AIDS is/was withheld by the government – and the government thwarted the efforts of people with AIDS to obtain medications that might prolong their lives.

The issue of what type of information can be “kept” by the government is not a settled issue. 

Debates are raging about (a) governmental denial of public access to information, (b) criminalization of the distribution of information and (c) the secrecy of information about special privileges for certain interests groups. 

Two recent court decisions about access to information and a proposed new international law to criminalize criticism of Islam illustrate what is going on.

A case decided by the California Supreme Court on December 17, 2013 (the Sander case) is about whether the public has the right to access public records (State Bar of California records) concerning applicants for admission to the practice of law in the State of California.

In the Sander case, UCLA Law School law professor Richard Sander, Joe Hick, and the California First Amendment Coalition sought a court order compelling the State Bar of California to grant Professor Sander access to State Bar admission records in order gather evidence with which to prove Sander’s theory that affirmative action resulted in a lower percentage of the minority students who got into prestigious law schools via “affirmative action” passing the state bar exam then the percentage of minority students who passed the state bar examination who went to other law schools – without the benefit of being admitted under “affirmative action.”

According to best selling author Malcolm Gladwell “Affirmative Action” is practiced aggressively in law schools, where black students are routinely offered positions in schools one tier higher than they would otherwise be able to attend.

The result?  According to Law Professor Richard Sander, more than half of all African-American law students in the United States – 51.6 percent – are in the bottom 10 percent of their law school class and almost three-quarters fall in the bottom 20 percent.

[Law School Professor Richard Sander believes “Affirmative Action” hurts the very people it is supposed to help and has written a book on the topic (with Stuart Taylor) titled Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It.]

The trial court rejected Sander’s request for an order requiring the State Bar to provide application for admission to practice law in California information to Sander.

The Supreme Court disagreed with the trial court’s denial of Sander’s request and issued an order which requires the trial court to reconsider Sander’s request for an order compelling the State Bar to provide such information to Sander.

The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal’s order, which ordered the trial court to revisit the issue.

The California Supreme Court said the thing to be decided by the trial judge is the proper balance of the public’s fundamental right to know how the government conducts the people’s business against the competing interest of private individuals to privacy concerning their identity and personal information- name, law school attended, undergraduate GPA, law school GPA, LSAT, bar passage, race.

Public access to government record cases (the public’s right to know cases) invoke common law principles, constitutional law principles and local laws which attempt to promote “open government” and seek to prevent secrecy about how the government conducts the people’s business.

The issue of what information and opinions the government can stop people from talking about is also up in the air.

In a case decided December 20, 2013, (the MBTA case), a federal judge rejected a “pro-Israel” group’s assertion that its free speech rights were violated when the MBTA turned down a subway advertisement on the grounds the ad was “demeaning and disparaging.”

The ad reads: In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.  Support Israel; defeat Jihad.”

Officials with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority rejected the ad in November on the basis that it violated the agency’s advertising guidelines, which include rejecting advertisements which demean and disparage individuals and groups.

MBTA officials said they believe the advertisement demeans and disparages Muslims and/or Palestinians.

The Sander case and the MBTA case are two examples of judges looking into things deeply in order to understand their own true nature.


Dallas Buyers Club” is “based” on the true story of a man who was told he had 30 days to live when it was discovered that he had AIDS, but by “self-medicating” with medicines not approved by the FDA prolonged his life for another seven years.

“Dallas Buyers Club” is also about how the government (in this case the FDA) and licensed hospitals and licensed physicians conduct the people’s business with respect to the management of information and protection of the health of people participating in clinical trials of new medicines before, during and after the conduct of clinical trials of experimental drugs.

In “Dallas Buyers Club” a man (a risk taking quirky individual who is the main character in the movie) while looking into an experimental medicine (AZT), discovered the harmful deadly effects of AZT then undergoing clinical trials, looked into the result of a variety of clinical trials (for combating AIDS) that were conducted in other countries, and battled the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for the right of himself and other terminal AIDS patients to choose to take medicines not approved by the FDA in a last desperate attempt to prolong their lives.

It turns out that the medication that man fought to be allowed to provide to other people would have saved their life.

Dramatic tension in this movie is created by the FDA frustrating the efforts of an outsider trying to tell something true and to save lives.

The main character in “Dallas Buyers Club” tried to provide life saving medicines to people infected with AIDS over the objection, bullying and legal actions taken by the FDA against him.

Issues are explored in “Dallas Buyers Club” in a gruff no-nonsense way.

The issues explored include

  • Who is the FDA protecting?
  • Who do clinical trials protect and how do clinical trials protect anyone?
  • For whose benefit are clinical trials conducted?
  • The possibility for people to determine their own circumstances.
  • Do terminal patients have the right to take medicines not approved by the FDA?

In “Dallas Buyers Club”, the main character (played by Matthew McConaughey) starts out, at the beginning of the movie, being a sleazy alienated unhappy card cheat, throwing away his life doing nothing of value for himself or for others.

As the movie progresses he becomes a noble caring individual willing to battle the government and to spend his personal fortune to save other people’s lives.

Matthew McConaughey’s interactions with other people and the government is flawlessly believable, an example of the practice of the highest acting skill level by an actor.

The Sander case, the MBTA case and “Dallas Buyers Club” movie are about consciousness, the free flow of information and opinions, the right and/or privilege to criticize and freedom including exploration of the question, Does freedom include freedom of choice?

On the current hotly debated topic of the free flow of information and opinions, a block of 57 Muslim countries is currently demanding that the West make it an international crime to criticize Islam.

In a 94 page document on “Islamophobia,” the Saudi based Organization of Islamic Cooperation lists as potential felonies: expressing “ideas that Muslims are inclined to violence” and “Islam is an inherently expansionist religion.”

In it’s report, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation proposes the U.S. and Europe bar from entry known critics of Islam, so they can’t take part in rallies or lectures regarding terrorism.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation also wants to censor teachers and indoctrinate students by requiring compliance with it’s proposed “Guidelines for Educators on Countering Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims.”

In answer to the question “What is freedom?” Archibald MacLeish, Pulitzer Price winning American poet has given the following answer.

“What is freedom?  Freedom is the right to choose: the right to create for oneself the alternatives of choice.  Without the possibility of choice a man is not a man but a member, an instrument, a thing.”

“Dallas Buyers Club” is  a box-office smash, because it is in tune with the people’s feelings about the right to create for themselves the alternatives of choice.

“Dallas Buyers Club” reproduces the richness and clamor of people living in the world today to create a better life for themselves and a better world.

“Modern” mature intelligent people want to know what is going on, want to think, want to be exposed to information critical of government.

Everyone identifies with the main character in “Dallas Buyers Club” – a desperate outsider who in his attempt to save his own life saves his own life and the life of others by unselfishly telling the truth and “breaking the law.”

Copyright © 2013 by Gary S. Smolker

About Gary S. Smolker

PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY: No enterprise can exist for itself alone. Every successful enterprise ministers to some great need, it performs some great service, not for itself, but for others. Otherwise, it ceases to be profitable and ceases to exist. Imagination, open mindedness and flexibility are the most important factors in unlocking potential. Those who embrace innovation, improvisation, continuous learning, time management, are action oriented, high energy, passionate, creative, purposeful and intense individuals are best equipped to succeed. We all have ideas and the ability to make progress by sharing information and our ideas and also by changing our ideas when appropriate. We should always be on the lookout for teaching and mentoring moments. We hold time like water in our hands; however tightly we clench our fingers, it drips away. But, if it falls on a seed, a seed may grow to become something that will have a positive social impact. PERSONAL INTERESTS: I have a passion to learn, to innovate, to lead, to mentor and to teach. I seek to write things worth reading and want to do things worth writing about. I enjoy (a) driving a fast car, (b) having intense conversations (c) teaching/mentoring, (d) reading and (e) being involved in productive activity. PERSONAL: I believe in cultivating and backing passionate people, innovation, and old fashioned good ideas. I love making human connections and spreading good ideas. I am strongly motivated to achieve in situations in which independence of thought and action are called for. PERSONAL GOALS: I want to live life vibrantly, to be as sharp as a tack until my last breath and to change the world by being me. My personal goal is to be fully engaged in life, to lead by example, to set high standards and to continue to amass firsthand experience and knowledge in all that interests me. PERSONALITY: I love fun and mischief. I relish absurdity. I have an irreverent, facetious and satiric disposition. I dread boredom. I have spent a lifetime reading. I have no bias against people who have lived successful and/or complicated lives. I write to release tension, to get things off my chest. SOCIAL MEDIA: I post articles on the "Gary S. Smolker Idea Exchange" blog at www.garysmolker.wordpress.com, and "Dude's Guide to Women's Shoes" at www.dudesguidetowomensshoes.com. I also post images and comments on Instagram @garyspassion. CONTACT INFORMATION: Gary Smolker, Smolker Law Firm, 16055 Ventura Blvd., Ste 525, Encino, California, 91436-2609, USA. Phone 1-818-788-7290, e-mail GSmolker@aol.com.

Posted on December 26, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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