This film won Matthew McConaughey the Oscar for best performance. The story is trueish, and concerns an eye-opening tale of a corrupt, rigged federal drug approval system.
But the actions on screen are about a Texas rodeo rider / oil rig electrician who finds out one day that he has AIDS. Ron Woodroof is an unlikable, homophobic jerk. His life consists of drugs, hookers and boozin’ with his crew. The news that he has been infected is such a shocker and a wake-up call that he literally doesn’t believe it for a while. When doctors give him 30 days to live, he suddenly has a mission and a purpose.
From here Ron enters the early days of HIV treatment, when doctors, drug companies, the feds and the desperate, dying patients of the world don’t know what works or what doesn’t. What’s been approved, AZT, has so many side effects that it could be said to help kill off the patients it purports to help. When Ron is unable to get this, the only treatment known, he heads down to Mexico to make it happen. That’s when his eyes are truly opened.
A doctor in a Mexican clinic has an assortment of other drugs, better drugs from around the world that are not approved in the US. Suddenly the opportunities are clear, and this is life or death.
Ron goes into business, a drug/supplement/treatment channel that would come to be known as the Dallas Buyer’s Club.
This serious drama touches many nerves, including homophobia, our shared humanity, corruption, the control of medicine, freedom and medical necessity. The entire story of AIDS is interwoven in the background, as one take no prisoners cowboy will not hear “no.” Ron ends up in Japan, in Europe, Israel, anywhere there is promise of a cure.
What’s more, the story presents Ron and his Mexican doctor as being on the forefront of understanding the disease, miles ahead of regulators and bureaucrats. Even doctors are shown as compromised and corrupted by the money changers.
How true the science is, one cannot say without more research. The drive and determination of the character, however, are done well enough to take that Oscar home. This is a character driven film, and Ron Woodroof shed his old self in pursuit of a better life where he made a difference in the world. The supporting cast are fantastic, believable and provide the humor and charm along the way.
Definitely a must-see.
4.5 / 5
McConaughey and Jared Leto are in this actor’s roundtable: