“Dallas Buyers Club” is the name of a Buyers Club organization that was really designed to sell vitamins and drugs to patients who tested positive for HIV and/or AIDS. There were a number of organizations like this popping up all over the country in New York, San Francisco, and other places during the 1980s. The FDA rallied hard against them and even helped form some aggressive new laws in order to prevent places like these from selling their products, which they never approved (and therefore made no profit off of).
It’s this fact that gets into a weird area, challenging the notions of the medical business industry. It makes you wonder the grounds for denying a terminally ill patient access to whatever he or she thinks will help their condition.
The movie follows a rodeo bull rider named Ron Woodroof, a man that likes his booze, his drugs, and his prostitutes. Physically speaking, Matthew McConaughey is a mere shell of his usual appearance, and he falls so effortlessly into the role of the southern rebel. After being told he’s not only HIV positive but has about thirty days to live, he begins researching his illness in earnest and (in the nick of time) finds access to alternative methods from a doctor in Mexico. The mainstream treatment, being an experimental drug called AZT, seems only to exacerbate his illness and cause extremely negative effects in other patients. The treatment he gets in Mexico however, which is a cocktail of vitamins and other drugs, actually seems to combat his symptoms, giving him an extra three months almost immediately. Seeing a chance to make profit, he sneaks a whole hoard of the stuff back with him to the states with intent to sell.
The rest of the movie is concerning his Buyers Club and his battles against the FDA and the government, who’s actively trying to stop his practice. The story is told almost entirely from Ron’s point of view, giving us little to no information about the inner workings of the FDA and their reasoning for their actions. We only get to see the direct results, which causes visible harm to desperate people.
The acting is terrific, and Matthew McConaughey, who has been having a really good string of performances ever since he decided he wanted to act again, turns out another fantastic portrayal. He’s a natural fit, even losing a ridiculous amount of weight to believably appear like a man with AIDS. Another stand out performance is from Jared Leto, who plays his cross-dressing drug addict business partner who also has AIDS. Jared Leto completely disappears into the character, making it difficult to see him even without the aid of his makeup and clothing. It’s a stand out role and a memorably good performance.
“Dallas Buyers Club” is a powerful story and a moving one, watching Ron’s slow transformation as he’s ostracized by his friends and forced to become a wholly different person because of his illness and his stubborn will to live. It’s carried by the character drama and fantastic performances by the leads, but better still it’s an important story of the medical business and where the line is drawn when it comes to saving your own life outside the system.