Dallas, 1986. Ron Woodroof is diagnosed with HIV and is given 30 days to live. He begins taking AZT, the only AIDs drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S.
The experimental drug does more harm than good, nearly killing Woodroof before he gives up on it altogether. After doing some research on other AIDS medications available outside the U.S., Woodroof travels across the world and smuggles the unapproved anti-viral medications into Texas.
After having similar negative reactions to AZT, other AIDS patients in Dallas seek out Woodroof and his medications, forgoing hospitals, doctors, and American pharmaceutical companies.
With the help of his doctor, Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), and a fellow patient, Rayon (Jared Leto), Ron creates the Dallas Buyers Club, providing its paying members with alternative treatments. The club, growing in numbers and clientele, is brought to the attention of the FDA, who wage an all-out war on Ron, threatening to shut down his business and deprive his clients of precious medications.
After a stint of films like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Failure to Launch, Fool’s Gold, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Matthew McConaughey resurfaced from the black lagoon of rom-coms in 2011 with a string of impressive performances. After films like The Lincoln Lawyer, Killer Joe, Bernie, Magic Mike, and this year’s Mud, McConaughey is without question one of the best American actors working right now.
With Dallas Buyers Club, he ascends to Best Actor contender for his portrayal of an entirely unlikeable man who undergoes a heartbreaking transformation. McConaughey’s award-worthy turn is complimented by a fantastic supporting performance by Leto who plays Rayon, a transsexual going through chemotherapy who befriends the homophobic Woodroof and helps him run the buyers club.
As for Jennifer Garner, it’s nice to see the Juno actress back on screen, but her character is a bit of a non-factor. While this is an improvement over her recent roles in Ghosts of Girlfriend’s Past (I’m just now remembering she co-starred with McConaughey in that dreadful film), Valentine’s Day, Arthur, and The Odd Life of Timothy Green, there still isn’t much for the Alias star to sink her teeth into here.
Dallas Buyers Club is your typical awards season biopic with brilliant performances by actors who disappear into their real-life counterparts. McConaughey delivers a career-best performance that takes a standard biographical film and makes it transcendent, emotionally engaging cinema. Dallas Buyers Club is one of the best films of the year.