Arts movie review

Turning 30 days to live into seven years

A film based on the true story of an HIV-positive cowboy

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Rayon (Jared Leto) and Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) in Dallas Buyers Club, the story of an HIV-positive man’s fight for life.
Anne Marie Fox

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: A previous version of this review provided an incorrect rating — the film is rated R.


Dallas Buyers Club

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, and Jared Leto

Rated R

Now playing

An unrecognizable Mathew McConaughey stars as Texas cowboy and rodeo hustler Ron Woodroof, whose carefree life is forever changed when he is told he is HIV-positive and has 30 days to live.

Ron is a charmer, a ladies man, a gambler, a druggie, an alcoholic, and a declared homophobic living in the ’80s, a time when AIDS was a thing of “faggots,” something you might get from shaking hands, a declared death sentence. Little was known about it, even less about how to treat it.

As any good lowlife who has scraped by for his livelihood knows, he is reluctant to listen to any authoritarian figure, especially when told how long he has to live. He has made a life of cutting corners and this sentence is not something that he is willing to submit to.

As his closest allies, he has the delightful Rayon (an almost equally hard to recognize Jared Leto) and the painfully sweet Dr. Eve Sacks (Jennifer Garner), both of whom he meets at the hospital. Rayon is a flamboyant HIV-positive transgender woman, and the best yet most unsuspected friend Ron could ever have hoped for. Eve is a champion of doing good, who is able to stay principled while working in a business as corrupt as medicine can be.

Ron goes across borders and oceans looking for treatment, impersonating doctors and priests, faking prescriptions, and lying to faces of authority. He wages a personal war against the FDA for approving a medicine that he condemns as toxic and for not letting him use and distribute one that, while not FDA approved, is also not illegal. What starts as a moneymaking opportunity ends as an impressive battle against imposition, either of a belief system or of self-defeat. His actions benefit many with his “Buyers Club,” turning him into some sort of Robin Hood of the sick. Yet while the movie manages to keep the heights of transformation at a reasonable level, our hero never takes himself as one. Based on a true story, Ron managed to outlive his 30 day sentence by almost 7 years with the help of people he would have shunned once, making this a moving story of acceptance and perseverance.

Mathew McConaughey is not the same shirtless hottie we might have gone to see when in a very mindless Sunday mood. In Dallas Buyers Club his performance takes him to the big leagues of names you trust to deliver. And if Jared Leto had not won you already, you will want to hug him hard for this one if you ever luckily happen to bump into him.