Summary: Matthew McConaughey portrays Ron Woodroof, a homophobic drug addict who was diagnosed with HIV in 1985. Desperate to live but struggling with his own prejudices, Ron finds his unique resources for survival, community and support in the unexpected.
Review: “Based on a true story” is the key phrase when watching Dallas Buyer’s Club. Yes, some key-facts are missing from the story — such as the legendary HIV/AIDS activists who were presented in last year’s How to Survive a Plague. Nonetheless, the film is riveting without being steeped in politics, skillfully showing the soul of one person who was affected by a disease that was thought to be a death sentence — proving from the start that HIV/AIDS was never a “gay man’s disease.” The major theme: A straight man from Texas is shocked when he is diagnosed with HIV and experiences homophobia, forced to confront his own insecurities. The turning of tables plot-line is nothing new, but director Jean-Marc Vallée and screenwriters Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack created on screen magic, which was undeniably powerful.
Matthew McConaughey gave the performance of his career as a man who only learns to value his life when he is faced with death. Doctor’s ignore him, friends abandon him and his community exiles him. McConaughey’s physical transformation is noteworthy but it’s the spiritual reinvention that makes the actor award worthy. However, if you ignore McConaughey’s littering of romantic comedies in his resume, this is an actor who has consistently proved he is more than a shirtless man running around on TMZ — especially when you see his performance in last year’s The Paperboy.
Jared Leto transforms himself into a transgender woman named Rayon, who creates an unlikely bond with Ron. Sure, audiences always praise someone’s acting when a heterosexual actor plays gay or trans (although I would love to see a transgender actor play a role that isn’t trans or an openly gay actor play a character that isn’t gay), but Leto’s performance is less about the exterior. His subtleties is what made Rayon likable and tortured, beautiful but sickly, intelligent and addicted.
Dallas Buyers Club is easily one of the best films of the year. Most importantly, the film shows homophobia, racism and sexism indirectly affects all of us — even when you believe you’re not one of “those people.” You never know the circumstances in life that might make you one of “them.”
Dallas Buyers Club is in theaters now.