Dallas Buyers Club finds an unlikely and often unlikable hero in Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) as he battles with an AIDS diagnosis and the Food and Drug Administration.
Woodroof is a drug abuser, womanizer and all around asshole, with a scummy group of low life friends, who spends more time gambling and spouting homophobic and racial slurs than working at his job as an electrician. However, things suddenly change for Woodroof when he’s brought into the hospital after a job gone wrong.
The doctors notice an issue with his blood work and run more tests only to find that he has Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the precursor to AIDS. Taking place in 1985, AIDS was at the time a death sentence with little available in the United States to help combat the illness. With rough times for those who are infected, there was a lot of social stigma that only homosexuals could be carriers.
For Woodroof and his group of friends, with their overly macho view of the world, being a “faggot” is their worst fear. The key moment of this perceived masculinity is during Woodroof’s diagnosis, when the doctors inform him he only has 30 days to live. Woodroof tells them it can’t be true because he’s not gay — they must have mixed up his test results. He then goes on to storm out of the hospital in a fury.
After passing out in his trailer park home, Woodroof finally succumbs to the idea that the doctors may have been correct. He goes to the local library, begins to investigate and, after eight day’s being diagnosed HIV positive, he begins to accept it. However, he does not accept dying.
Since the FDA makes drugs that are helpful nearly unavailable for those who have HIV and AIDS, Woodroof takes it upon himself to smuggle drugs from other countries and starting his own underground pharmaceutical company, known as a “buyer’s club.”
The club is meant for those who’d like to just buy the drugs they need rather than waiting for the FDA to approve it, as they would in all likelihood die far before the lengthy approval times would be sorted out.
McConaughey plays Woodroof with a startling degree of honesty — not shying away from the ugly tendencies of the character, but showing a kindness that grows inside of him once opened to this world. The buyers club brings Woodroof close with a HIV positive transexual Rayon (Jared Leto) whom he partners the business with. Through Rayon, Woodroof becomes more than a trailer trash persona; he opens his mind to sexuality and cares for Rayon dearly as a friend.
While his AIDS diagnosis was a death sentence, it taught him the value of life and understanding of those around him. It isn’t an easy road to get to this point, and seeing Woodrow come to terms with homosexuality, coming from the pejudice environment he is accustomed to, is difficult to watching.
The performances from the leads keeps the viewers eyes glued to the screen. Leto in particular plays Rayon with a smart amount of subtlety, making her feel like a well rounded, emotional character. Her battle with drug abuse as well as the disease comes to a startling climactic close that will leave the viewers emotionally drained and displays Leto’s underrated acting abilities.
The film not only highlights the importance of acceptance as it explores Woodroff’s emotional development, but likewise acts as a critique on the FDA and their drug trials at the time.
Those responsible for approving drugs for use were more interested in making money than in helping patients. Woodroof discovers that there are non-FDA approved drugs available cheaper outside of the country, and soon after begins an illegal importing business that starts for his own personal gain but eventually becomes about helping others also diagnosed with AIDS.
The FDA tries to stop Woodroof at every turn and the process turns him into an unsung hero — one who used to only stand for himself but now finding himself standing for the people.
With strong lead performances and an unwillingness to shy away from the dark side of its characters, Dallas Buyers Club will be a big winner with audiences and is a strong Oscar contender.