Based on a true story, Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) leads a fast and rough life. He’s an electrician working in dangerous areas, a swindling gambler at the local rodeo, drinks heavily, snorts coke and has plenty of loose women. When we first meet him, there is no denying his physical condition is atrocious. He is sickly skinny with sunken eyes and blacks out the moment he gets home to his trailer. After an accident at work, he wakes up in a hospital to the news that he is HIV positive and only has thirty days to live.
At the time, 1985, HIV and AIDS were stigmatized as a homosexual disease, so the news is a lot for a rough neck cowboy to take in. After some initial denial and tension with his homophobic friends, Ron takes action. He does some research and tries to get AZT, but the drug is only in clinical trials. His searching for it leads him to Mexico, where a doctor is doing his own research on AIDS. After nursing Ron back to a more manageable health, the doctor gives Ron a mixture of drugs and vitamins to smuggle into the United States to sell to others who are HIV positive or fighting AIDS. With the help of a transvestite he met at the hospital, Rayon (Jared Leto), Ron takes to the streets of Dallas trying to give the HIV and AIDS community a better chance at life. But the FDA, muddled in red tape, money and pushes out useless drugs, tries to shut Ron down.
Alright, alright, alright, let’s talk about Mathew McConaughey. Between Dallas Buyers Club and his unforgettable cameo on The Wolf of Wall Street, this seems to be his best year yet. He seems to have finally broken out of the pretty-boy rom-com roles and into more serious acting. Best of all, his characters lately always come across as a bad-ass, always in control even when things are not going his way. And his physical transformation to portray Ron is astounding and no doubt took some real commitment. I just hope it was safe, we want him around for a long time.
And then there’s Jared Leto. He portrays Rayon, a HIV positive transvestite with a heart of gold that Ron meets in the hospital. Right away, we see that he is genuinely kind, even when Ron is clearly uncomfortable with a homosexual in makeup befriending him. What makes this such a great role is Rayon’s problems with drug abuse and his uneasy relationship with his father. The hype has been with Leto long before his nomination, I’m curious to see how the Academy will vote.
Dallas Buyers Club is nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture, film editing, original screenplay. McConaughey has earned nomination for lead actor and Leto for supporting actor, a first Oscar nomination for either of them. The film is also nominated for makeup and hair styling, and between Leto’s makeup and whatever they did to McConaughey to make him look so sickly at times, I believe this film has secured the award.
Honestly, I feel a bit indifferent about this film as a whole. I agree that this is a good movie, it is an important story that deserves to be told and the acting all around is great, but I just did not find myself connecting with it. Maybe it was the way Ron seems kind of like a Texan Robin Hood, smuggling good drugs in and the FDA comes across like a money fueled Prince John scrambling to shut Ron down. However, I would not discourage others from seeing it.
“What? Hook me up to the morphine drip, let me fade on out? Nah. Sorry, lady, but I prefer to die with my boots on.”