Ron Woodroof (a shockingly thin Matthew McConaughey) hangs out at rodeos, goes after the ladies two at a time and can be counted on to bust a gut when his pals tell homophobic jokes.
So Woodroof is outraged when a blood test reveals that he’s infected with the HIV virus. And he gets even angrier when told that he has only 30 days to live — an unsettling but realistic diagnosis given the time period, the mid-1980s.
Out of spite as much as desperation, the self-styled cowboy sets out to prove the doctors wrong — first by illegally getting his hands on a new but problematic drug called AZT, then by smuggling anti-viral meds out of Mexico.
Setting up a club to sell the meds, Woodroof soon realizes he’s not the ideal liaison to the gay community. So he enlists someone considerably better qualified: Rayon (Jared Leto), a flirty transsexual whose struggle to survive echoes his own. It’s not long before the unlikely business partners become best friends.
At once a fascinating character study and a scathing indictment of the role of the medical-pharmaceutical complex in exacerbating the AIDS crisis, the fact-based “Dallas Buyers Club” is one of the best films of the year.
Working from a screenplay by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, director Jean-Marc Vallée (“The Young Victoria”) delivers a stylistically gritty film that might have been made during the era it depicts — if not for the fact that Hollywood was notoriously slow to acknowledge the reality of AIDS.
McConaughey is terrific as a man who refuses to let other people tell him how to live — or die. But arguably, Leto is even more impressive, deftly sidestepping caricature to get to Rayon’s essence.
This is the rare film that not only entertains, but enlightens.
What “Dallas Buyers Club” • Three and a half stars out of four • Rating R • Content Language, sexual content, nudity, drug use • Run time 1:57