It may have seemed like a blip on the radar when it initially came to theaters, but thanks to the Academy Awards, 'Dallas Buyers Club' has earned a lot of attention.
Ron (Matthew McConaughey) is both an electrician and works at a rodeo. Both very high-testosterone work environments and little room for anything not perceived to be masculine. One day, Ron feels sick and sees a doctor who tells him that he is HIV positive and has thirty days to live. He recalls an unprotected encounter with a lady of ill-repute. Anyway, Ron refuses to accept this and aggressively lobbies to be included in some experimental trials. There is protocol to getting onto one of those lists and he resorts to unscrupulous methods to get some experimental drugs. Once on these drugs, he begins to feel a lot better and exceeds his purported day of death.
This inspires Ron to go on a campaign informing the public that the FDA is dragging its feet in trials and that he believes he has a way to prolong life. Along the way, he meets Rayon (Jared Leto) a drug-addicted, HIV positive trans woman. At first, there is friction, but they work together to establish a campaign in acquiring FDA trial drugs and selling them to sick people.
They get away with it for awhile, but it doesn’t take long before the higher-ups catch wind of this...
A good story is a good story, whether it is true or fiction. That said, some cursory research reveals a few very important details that were invented to make this story more 'compelling'. As objective as one wants to be, it does diminish things a bit to know that the real story needed some serious embellishment. The structure is reliable and the story arc unfolds as you would expect so the narrative has a slightly calculated, familiar feel.
Where the story succeeds is in portraying a straight man saddled with an unfair stigma and fighting back against not only the FDA and the medical community, but against the scorn and ignorance of his peers. His rebellion is very entertaining and watchable, though the entrepreneur angle doesn’t make him particularly likeable. He is profiting off of the sick. Maybe you could argue he is charging them to offer a sustainable source for the medicine, but greed also seems to be a motivating factor and it muddies up the moral end of this story.
McConaughey continues his winning performance, and undergoes a drastic physical transformation for this role. Leto goes through his own wild metamorphosis and practically steals the movie. No one should be upset that either one of these fellows won Academy Awards.
'Dallas Buyers Club' is a fairly good movie with some marvelous performances which elevate the film to critical levels it would otherwise not be privy.
By all means, see it, but keep your expectations of the story in check.
Rated R 116 minutes 2013