Much was made of Matthew McConaughey’s severe weight loss before “Dallas Buyers Club” was even released. While this shows a potentially unhealthy physical commitment to the role, it is only one aspect of his transformation into real life electrician, bull rider and ultimately unlicensed pharmacist Ron Woodroof. He embodies his emaciated frame with a starkly believable portrayal of an extremely foul-mouthed, combative, sex obsessed, homophobic hard drinking and smoking lowlife. And it definitely comes with its pros and cons.
The biggest con is giving us a completely unlikable protagonist that we never come to care about. The movie’s hard to sit through opening scenes graphically illustrate Ron’s worthless character and stupidity, the latter being humorously revealed when he tells his buds that Rock Hudson was the gay actor who starred in “North by Northwest.” However, if you hang in there, it does get interesting after Ron is unexpectedly diagnosed with AIDS and given a 30 day death sentence. That’s when the story really begins. Spurred on by his own desperation and a chance encounter with a gay transvestite named Rayon (an equally emaciated and strikingly realistic Jared Leto) he begins to scour the globe in search of non-FDA approved drugs and supplements. He then goes into business providing these treatments to fellow AIDS sufferers through the guise of a club membership.
Yet even then, this Ron Woodroof fails to make the redemptive quantum leap from devil to crusading angel. Yes, he goes out on a limb to help people but it’s not for any new found love of his fellow man or realization that he should turn his life around. He’s simply picked a new fight and found a way to make a hefty profit while trying to save his still offensive self. “Dallas Buyers Club” is vague as a message movie and works a little too hard at being an artsy one. While its central story does carry a degree of fascination, it nonetheless makes you wonder why it was made now rather than closer to the mid-1980’s events it depicts.