The year is 1986. AIDS is at the center of media attention, despite not much being generally known about the disease. Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is rough and tumble electrician and rodeo man from Dallas. A product of his lifestyle, which includes frequent trysts with rodeo groupies and a penchant for hard drugs, Ron is diagnosed with HIV and given thirty days to live. This is a prognosis he refuses to accept in this true story.
Determined to extend his life as best he can, Ron is not satisfied with the one and only HIV drug vying for FDA approval, due to the fact that it is not yet readily available and that it has potentially deadly side effects itself. Doing his own research, Ron uncovers a slew of other potential cures and treatments around the world, ranging from natural supplements to experimental medications. Discovering various things that seem to work for him, he decides to share the wealth.
He partners with fellow patient, Rayon (Jared Leto of 30 Seconds to Mars), a transsexual, despite his intense aversion to all things homo, and soon they are running a club where members have access to all the options he can get his hands on – for a fee. Jennifer Garner also appears as Ron’s doctor who has conflicting thoughts on what he is doing, and Steve Zahn is a cop friend of Ron’s.
Much talk has been made of McConaughey’s performance here, and for good reason. He has totally transformed himself for this role. Not only physically – he lost thirty pounds – but stylistically, throwing himself into the mindset of a complex character much different than any I’ve seen him portray before. It’s a far cry from his days in romantic comedies.
Leto’s performance as well, as the flamboyant character who brings a different perspective to Ron’s life, is excellent.
The most interesting aspect of this film and its story is the that neither of the heroes are particularly good people. They are drug addicts and philanderers. They may or may not be doing what they are doing for purely selfish reasons. There is some redemption and growth in Woodroof’s character as he begins to care about people other himself, but still, he’s quite flawed. The film doesn’t judge though. Even the protagonists of the story, the doctors and the FDA are not overly vilified. Deftly painted, this is a portrait of desperate and confused people, of human emotion and failing, compassion, and moral justice. It’s a picture of one man’s life effecting those around him through unexpected channels. It’s not a pretty picture though, and it has sharp jagged edges.
Dallas Buyers Club is sure to evoke numerous emotions, as well as stir up discussions about how the pharmaceutical business in the USA is run, and an individual’s right to choose how to live their life.
Mrs. Hamster did not attend this screening
My rating: Five out of five hats
Dallas Buyers Club is expanding membership to 35 theaters, November 8