Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is an electrician. He also takes bets at the rodeo. Bets he doesn’t follow through with if he loses. His lifestyle consists of booze, cigarettes, drugs of all sorts, and casual sex.
After an accident at work, Ron is taken to the hospital. While there, he is found to be HIV+. In 1985, this is a death sentence. The doctors tell Ron he only has 30 days to live. Frankly, they are surprised he is still alive.
Ron is in disbelief after his diagnosis. He is not gay. In fact, he doesn’t even know any gay people. After all, this is the only way you can get the disease.
As his health continues to fade, Ron starts researching HIV. He comes to accept the diagnosis, but refuses to go out without a fight. His research leads him to all sorts of alternatives to the newly introduced AZT, which is just now starting human trials. Unfortunately, none of the alternatives drugs are available in the United States, as they have not been approved by the FDA. Ron decides he will pursue these alternatives, no matter how far he must go to get them.
Ron sets up a buyers club, though which he intends to profit off bringing the unapproved drugs to the US. Ron’s homophobic attitude didn’t avail itself to his ability to sell to the majority of those infected with HIV. While in the hospital after one of his collapses due to AIDS, he meets Rayon (Jared Leto). Rayon acts as Ron’s salesman, being able to reach the clients Ron is seeking. When the FDA finds out about the operation, they do everything in their power to shut down Ron’s operation.
Dallas Buyers Club is a true story. And it is wonderfully told. Director Jean-Marc Vallée was able to perfectly capture the attitude America held towards AIDS and the LGBT community in general during the late 1980s. There was the misconception that it was a gay disease, and anyone who was infected was ostracized, losing their friends and family.
Matthew McConaughey typically plays some sort of goofy, out of touch with reality character in most of his roles. While he brings a lot of his McConaughey charm to the role, his portrayal of Ron Woodroof brings him more down to earth. This is probably some of his finest acting. Jared Leto is amazing in this film, as well. His Rayon seems completely on point. He buries himself so well into the role, that I didn’t realize it was him. (His performance is even more amazing, considering he kept his luxurious mane hidden the entire film.)
Again, I go back to Jean-Marc Vallée and his execution. Not only does the film capture the 1980s attitude, the way the film is shot gives you a sense of what Ron was going through. The visual and audio cues are disrupting and disorienting. You can actually feel what Ron must have felt as his body was shutting down around him. Very well done.
Dallas Buyers Club takes you back to the early days, when HIV/AIDS was first discovered. And it does so with a very realistic approach. I remember the country going through what is portrayed in the film. The story of Ron’s determination and desperation could not have been better told. It is no surprise that it is up for so many awards.