Right from the get-go of “Dallas Buyers Club,” we are introduced to a Matthew McConaughey audiences have never seen before. Not the steaming leading man from earlier years, but an alarmingly thin cowboy bull rider Ron Woodroof, who finds out he has contracted HIV.
The 1980s were an unforgiving time for HIV. Thousands were dying, and no cure seemed to stop the unrelenting virus. Contracting HIV also came with a stigma—it was commonly believed that the only way one could have contracted the virus was through homosexual acts. Given the time period, the two were synonymous, and Ron finds himself slowly being expelled from his Texas community.
Given 30 days to live, Ron tackles the battle headfirst, starting with selling unapproved drugs from across the border to scouring the world for the best HIV treatment. Along the way, he unknowingly becomes an advocate and activist for HIV treatment. As his business, the “Dallas Buyers Club” grows, so does Ron.
We meet his future business partner, Rayon (Jared Leto), a cross-dressing junkie who’s in the same HIV boat as Ron. “Dallas Buyers Club” is not just about Ron going up against the Food and Drug Administration and the other establishments who kept potentially lifesaving drugs away from the people who needed them. It is also about his growth as a human being, and how this growth allows him to work side by side with a flamboyant transsexual, someone he probably wouldn’t even have acknowledged in his prior life, let alone worked with.
McConaughey’s performance is eye-catching, as he embodies a physically strained man, yet is still filled with an infallible determination. Leto deserves just as much praise, as his portrayal of Rayon is both endearing and cheering, while serving as a foil to Ron’s demeanor.
Both actors underwent tremendous physical transformations for their roles, and both command attention when they’re on screen. If I had one concern, it would be that “Dallas Buyers Club” can get a bit graphic. Whether it’s the overt and detrimental drug use or the very nature of the virus, “Dallas Buyers Club” doesn’t hold back.
I was so wrapped up in Leto and McConaughey’s performances, I had to remind myself I was watching actors at work. I couldn’t see the same person from “Dazed and Confused” or “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” All I could see was a man suffering from a deadly disease, and doing everything in his power to fight and help others along the way. Nor could I see the front man of the rock group “30 Seconds to Mars,” as Leto’s scene-stealing drag queen Rayon was unexpected and heartwarming.
Based on a true story, “Dallas Buyers Club” is a real uphill battle of two men with HIV fighting against giant corporations and pharmaceutical companies focused on the top dollar rather than the body count. McConaughey and Leto do a fantastic job of commanding our attention and bringing us along for the ride.
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