In 1985, Rodeo Cowboy Ron Woodroof is informed that he only has 30 days to live because he is in the last stages of AIDS. Naturally, he rejects the diagnosis with a politically incorrect statement that cements his homophobia and his absolute disconnection from his own humanity and self-respect. After all, he is a tough drunk, drug-addict Dallas boy who cons, lives in a trailer and goes out with his pals for long nights of sex with many hot cowgirls. You can’t get more MACHO than that. But he is rapidly introduced to this illness’ stigma as his friends immediately consider him “gay”. Soon after, Woodroof will have to put his reputation in the back burner and focus on his very near deadline.
Jean-Marc Vallé’s Dallas Buyers Club cuts to the chase as the movie begins, and makes very good use of the first last 30-days of Woodroof’s life and how he is able to survive for over two years the same way he’s always lived: outside the law. He finds ways to get untested and illegal drugs for himself, make a business out of it with the growing AIDS suffering population and confront the FDA. In the process he brings Rayon (a transgender drug addict) to his business, which forces him to accept what he once deemed unacceptable and finally finds the first hint of love with Dr. Eve, all mixed in with his chaotic existence.
Woodroof is the archetypal American character that rises from his self-destructive ashes to become not only a successful businessman, but to save his soul as he extends his own lifespan and gets in touch with his compassionate side.
Matthew McConaughey’s commitment to his character is fully head-on which reminds us of the career-making performances of Charlize Theron in ‘Monster’ or Hillary Swank in ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, or even Christian Bale’s ‘The Machinist’ and Robert DeNiro’s physicality in ‘Ragging Bull’. His transformation supports the physical with a fully dimensional character altogether. But McConaughey is not the only one in the cast who’s dressing to impress. Jared Leto comes back to the limelight with a hard to forget turn as the transsexual drug addict and Aids infected Rayon. Both actors endure a physical transformation that influences their core, finding the true voice of their characters.
Once you’re in front of these two, the whole movie becomes their vehicle and Jean-Marc pretty much sets his direction into autopilot. It is not hard for audiences to know where this story is going after the first 20 minutes, but that doesn’t make it less impactful, specially since it targets the bureaucracy of the FDA as they become an impediment for a fast and effective treatment of a fast killing illness that has become the sign of our times.