The first time Matthew McConaughey appears onscreen in Dallas Buyers Club, the reflex is to gasp. That carved-from-amber beach bod has been whittled down to a toothpick. He’s gaunt, almost insectoid, with a head too big for his neck and skin stretched like plastic wrap around his eyes and Adam’s apple. It’s a transformation mirroring that of McConaughey’s career over the past year, ever since the day he woke up, put on a shirt and decided to become the best actor of his generation: The rom-com lothario has withered away. In his place arrives a performer at his peak, in a role that better damn well win him an Oscar, as an AIDS activist the movies have never seen before: a shit-kicking, homophobic redneck. That redneck actually existed, too. In 1985, Ron Woodroof, a Dallas electrician, bull rider and pussy-chasing, coke-snorting degenerate, became one of the rare straight men in the early years of the AIDS epidemic to contract HIV. Left out of the trials of an experimental new drug, and frustrated by the grinding inertia of Big Pharma, Woodroof went to Mexico, where, with a cocktail of natural supplements and non-FDA-approved meds, he was nursed back to health. Figuring there was a great racket in AIDS drugs that actually worked, he returned to Texas and opened a “buyers club.” Operating out of a fleabag motel, he skirted federal regulations by selling “memberships” at a rate of $400 per month and doling out the banned substances for “free.” To the credit of writers Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack and director Jean-Marc Vallée, Dallas Buyers Club has no weepy epiphanies, no soliloquies about newfound understanding. Woodroof may have been an asshole, but he was an asshole whose instinct for self-preservation eventually helped extend the lives of millions of better people. And, in the face of a plague, that’s worth more than one jerk’s enlightenment.
- Running Time:
- Release Date: Tuesday, November 12, 2013
- MPAA Rating: R
- Critic's Score: A
- Watch the trailer