It’s the 1980s. Bull-riding Southern boy Ron (Matthew McConaughey) drinks hard, snorts a lot of coke and engages in heaps o’ sex.
After being electrocuted, he lands in the hospital where he’s diagnosed with AIDS. He’s told that his T-cell count is 9 (a healthy range is 150-200) and will be dead in 30 days. Ron doesn’t like gays and the news is too much to bear. He leaves the hospital against doctor’s orders despite his persistent cough, his emaciated frame and dizzy spells.
He delves into research to learn all he can about AIDS, its causes and what drugs have success combating the virus. He learns about AZT but trials won’t start for another year. He treks to Mexico to get drugs. He shares the diagnosis with his best friend and soon, Ron’s friends turn on him, he gets evicted and he loses his job.
Ron’s resourceful and intelligent. He battles the FDA, bamboozles at border crossings, travels to other countries to get supplements and proteins. He starts a drug buyers club where he sells the meds that are helping people with the virus. Early on, Ron’s finesse needs work. With the help of Rayon (Jared Leto), a transvestite he meets in the hospital, they build a very successful business that helps scores of sick people despite the incessant obstacles.
This is a remarkable movie that delves into interesting history about a dark era. The facts are alarming and moving. The resilience of Ron and Rayon is inspiring as are their personal struggles. The movie tells its story without beating us with how we are supposed to feel or respond. We are given insight into information in ways that don’t distract from the main events, such as how Ron contracted AIDS.
The cast bursts with talent. Jennifer Garner as the doctor who supports Ron and Rayon’s mission. Bradford Cox (lead singer of Deerhunter) as Rayon’s boyfriend. A white-haired Griffin Dunne as a doctor exiled from practicing in the US. Steve Zahn has a bit role.
You’ve heard about McConaughey’s physical transformation for this one. He’s difficult to behold, he’s that thin. His acting is his best yet, but it’s Jared Leto that is the pulse of Dallas Buyers Club. He’s unrecognizable: his voice, his walk, his shaved eyebrows. He seizes the role of Rayon.
Dallas Buyers Club details the strength of a person who transforms from homophobe to tireless supporter of individuals whose dire needs were largely ignored by the slow-to-act medical establishment. The movie stays with you afterwards.
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Run time: 117 minutes