Only after a work mishap does he go to see a doctor, who finds that Ron (Matthew McConaughey, who won Best Actor honors at the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards; he’s expected to win the Best Actor Oscar at the Academy Awards) is HIV-positive. Ron rejects the diagnosis and thinks the doctor is calling him a homosexual. This is a guy who thinks it’s a shame that Rock Hudson had AIDS; not because of what it’s doing to him, but because of all of the Hollywood starlets he never slept with.
He’s given no treatment and only 30 days to live, but that doesn’t mean Ron will sit around and sulk. He hears of a new drug called AZT from another doctor (Jennifer Garner), which he illegally obtains both in the States and in Mexico. It’s there that he comes across two more effective drugs, which are prohibited in the States. Soon after, he launches the Dallas Buyers Club with Rayon (Jared Leto, who, like McConaughey, has been honored at the Globes and SAGs; he also is anticipated to win an Oscar), a transgender woman also suffering from the virus and has enough connections to make the business profitable.
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (The Young Victoria), Dallas Buyers Club is set in the mid-1980s, when HIV and AIDS were being acknowledged by media and others. (Around that time, Hudson died and Cleve Jones concocted the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.) Instead of entirely focusing on activism or the effects (although these, especially the latter, are included), Dallas Buyers Club looks at the role of both the law and the medical world, as well as the work and determination that goes into wanting to live and help others. At the same time, it is about a man developing from a rash homophobe who spends his days chugging and inhaling into a gentle soul whose affliction has allowed him to discover his purpose.
And yet, there is no sentimental level here. We feel horrible for Ron, Rayon and all of the other men that come to the Dallas Buyers Club, but it never feels like we’re being condescended or tricked into it.
Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack’s screenplay is a strong and caring one, but it’s primarily the performances (as so many guilds and awards show have revealed) that make the film and story work. McConaughey’s is so much more than just him losing 38 pounds and Leto’s goes far beyond similar weight loss and a wig. These are two actors giving deep and phenomenal performances that are both worthy of their earned accolades and pay tribute to those they are inspired by.
Deleted Scenes (4:56): Collected here are three short deleted and extended scenes.