Dallas Buyers Club is an infuriating, hard to watch, yet inspirational movie based on a true story. The new film from French-Canadian director Jean Marc Vallée stars Matthew McConaughey as he has never been seen before.
The Longview native reportedly lost around 50 pounds for his role as Ron Woodroof. The transformation works, giving credence to the compelling saga about a man diagnosed as being HIV-positive in 1985. Back then, HIV meant death.
Director Vallée follows Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack’s script that strings together various sequences throughout Woodroof’s life after his diagnosis. Before, he works as an electrician and moonlights as a rodeo cowboy. His masculine world is filled with hard drinking, recreational drug use and plenty of sex with women.
When he learns of his new condition, given with the warning that he has 30 days to live, he does not take it well, mostly because the disease was associated with the gay men who contracted it in droves. Woodroof gradually begins the transformation into the intelligent seeker that unknowingly lies beneath his rough exterior.
Borten and Wallack’s script has Woodroof studying medical books and drug trial results with the commitment of a medical student, leading to his rebellion against then-accepted treatments and heading out on his own to get drugs not approved by the Federal Drug Administration.
He travels to Mexico, Japan, and eventually around the globe in his quest to somehow get these drugs. Woodroof still clings to his hard-edged cowboy side, selling off some of his booty when he sees a profit.
His commercial endeavors set him up to establish the buyers’ club, a ruse used to by-pass drug laws. It also infuriates federal agents, who conveniently serve as the film’s bad guys.
Jennifer Garner co-stars as a sincere but overwhelmed physician who tries to ignore Woodroof’s illegal activities while still encouraging his sincere advocacy. Jared Leto turns in a powerful, persuasive and touching performance as Woodroof’s partner-in-crime, Rayon, a gay man who teaches the cowboy about humility, loyalty and human worth.
But it is McConaughey who turns in the electrifying performance. His scaled-down body ranks as one of the most extreme appearance-changes since Christian Bale’s The Machinist or even Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull. Coupled with the year’s earlier Mud, it looks like this might be the year when the actor’s formidable acting skills could finally be recognized.
BOO ALLEN is an award-winning film critic from Dallas.
Dallas Buyers Club
Rated R, 117 minutes. Opens Friday.