The Sloth has a theory that Matthew McConaughey’s acting ability relates directly to the size of his car. See The Lincoln Lawyer – sprawling old Lincoln, great performance. And now see Dallas Buyer’s Club – massive old Cadillac, quite astounding performance.
Based on a true story, Dallas Buyers Club deals with the mid 80’s HIV and AIDS crisis. Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), an electrician by trade, enjoyed unhealthy hobbies including rodeo bull riding, hard drugs, alcohol and prostitutes. After a freak accident, routine hospital blood tests revealed he was HIV positive with 30 days to live. Homophobic Ron initially refused to accept he’d contracted a “faggot’s” disease, until his rapidly declining health forced him to face reality.
Drawing on his natural pig-headed belligerence, Ron rejected controversial new drug treatment AZT, pushed by hospitals and drugs companies with vested financial interests. Instead, he sought treatment in Mexico from a rogue Dr Vass, whose unconventional, holistic approach apparently delivered better results. Returning to the US stabilised and intending to distribute Dr Vass’ treatment, Ron encountered flamboyant transvestite Rayon (Jared Leto), who he realised was an access point to the HIV positive gay community. Between them, Ron and Rayon set up the Dallas Buyers Club where ‘membership fees’ of $400 gave HIV sufferers access to Dr Vass’ medication, circumventing laws on directly selling unapproved drugs.
Emaciated, hollow-eyed, leaning weakly on the steering wheel of his oversized ride, McConaughy’s physical appearance is shocking. But it’s his slow character transformation that sticks in the mind. Angry, railing, with his illness leading him from prejudice to empathy, acceptance and genuine friendship with the gay Rayon, he’s an unlikely flawed hero. A fascinating story, inspirational but portrayed with an admirable lack of sentiment. Just imagine what McConaughey would be capable of given the keys to a stretch Hummer…
UK release: 7 February 2014