Based on the true story of Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey): a hard drinking, hard living, hyper-masculine homophobic sex hound who contracts the HIV/AIDS virus in 1986. The movie follows him as he tries to fight back against his 30-day death sentence at first through AZT, a clinical trial drug meant to help fight the disease that ultimately proves toxic, and then through extralegal or illegal means. With the help of a fellow AIDS victim and Transgender woman, Rayon (Jared Leto), Woodruff starts a buyers club in Dallas for other victims who are looking for any means to survive.
There’s a lot about “Dallas Buyer’s Club” that screams Oscar bait, but there is also a lot about the movie that’s insightful in a way a lot of movies that have explored this terrible disease have not been. This is a film that chooses to tell a story about AIDS from the perspective of a certain kind of man. Ron Woodruff is the worst spectrum of an alpha male: crude, homophobic, coarse, alcoholic, drug addicted and aggressive, and seeing an AIDs story from this type of male–just from an idea perspective–allows for a movie to explore the intense masculinity and ignorance that pervaded the late 80s.
McConaughey plays this character perfectly and the movie simply doesn’t work without him. His smooth drawl is almost Southern Belle -like and he carries that Cowboy Sheriff swagger with him and his every move.
Even at his most abusive or foul, he’s still charming and hypnotizing. Leto as Rayon is also great; both he and McConaughey visibly suffer for this movie, with the dramatic weight loss and the grimness they emote at any instance.
Ultimately though, it is an Oscar picture and it follows the same rudimentary path these types of movies tend to make. It’s a character who starts as a sonofabitch and ends as a hero; it’s uplifting, heartbreaking and deals with serious human condition. Whether or not this earns McConaughey an Oscar is unknown, but at this moment he’s still one of the most mesmerizing actors to watch in just about anything.
Dallas Buyers Club opens today in select theaters.