‘Dallas Buyers Club,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


Having squandered most of this century’s first decade being a movie star, Matthew McConaughey has approached its second stanza as an actor. The results have been salutary.

In a year in which he’s already turned in stellar work in “Mud,” after last year’s “Magic Mike” and “Killer Joe,” here he comes, aiming squarely for a best-actor Oscar in “Dallas Buyers Club.” And we haven’t even seen what he’ll do in Martin Scorsese’s “Wolf of Wall Street.”

If ever there was a year that called for the presentation of an Oscar for a body of work, McConaughey is having it. The vagaries of distribution aside, it’s no coincidence that he’s given a string of deep and deeply nervy performances. “Dallas Buyers Club” is the cherry on top of the sundae.

Set in 1985, “Dallas Buyers Club” is the true story of Ron Woodroof, a part-time Dallas rodeo rider and full-time party animal. An avowed heterosexual (with a wide streak of macho homophobia, as befits the times and the region), he’s getting by on a mix of oil-field work, rodeo side-bets and whatever else gets him through the night – at least until the day he wakes up in a hospital and gets the bad news: He has tested positive for the HIV virus and doctors give him roughly 30 days to live.

Ron gets past his initial shock (of the “I ain’t no dang queer” variety) to the crux of the moment: He needs help and no one is going to help him. So he starts doing his homework, then does what he does best: bribes an orderly to get him AZT, the first drug being tested to fight AIDS and HIV.

But AZT is exceptionally harsh on the body – and Ron finally finds himself in the hands of an alternative-therapy doctor in Mexico (Griffin Dunne), who tips him off to more experimental treatments involving vitamins, amino acids and other compounds that the FDA either isn’t looking into or is banning outright.

This review continues on my website.

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