AIDS was some scary shit in the 1980s. There was no treatment, and if you got diagnosed with it, it was as good as a death sentence. Today, we have effective, readily available treatments. It is no longer the death sentence it once was. Dallas Buyer’s Club tells the true story of one man who tries to beat AIDS in a time when the U.S. did not have any available treatment.
Matthew McConaughey tries to get enrolled as a patient in the first clinical trial for an AIDS medication. He can’t get in, so he pays hospital staff to smuggle him the drug. When that route eventually fails, he goes to Mexico to get the drugs. Of course, even though his health is important to him, he can’t pass up a business opportunity when he sees it. He decides to run a business, a buyer’s club. Essentially, people pay him monthly club fees and he will give them all the various AIDS medications they need smuggled from Mexico. Technically, he’s not selling them the drugs, so his venture is legal. The FDA, however, tries to shut him down as he’s providing an unregulated, untested drug to the general market.
Dallas Buyer’s Club is a fascinating movie. First, the story is true and relatable. Whether AIDS or something else, we all know someone who has been touched by medical illness. Some of these illnesses may have no treatment. What lengths would you go to in order to procure a treatment for yourself or your loved ones? That’s what this movie is about: one man’s struggle to find a way to survive. Second, it casts light on FDA practices (which have since changed) where they denied people treatment for a deadly disease while waiting for data to come in on clinical studies. Third, while you side with McConaughey, it’s easy to see that what he is doing is wrong. The FDA guys are assholes, but they have a point: you can’t just let people take whatever they want and end up killing themselves or muddying the waters so effective treatments can’t be discovered. The movie is great because it shows both sides as having multiple shades of gray. Neither is completely right or completely wrong. This is what fuels the compelling drama.
Of course, I have to discuss the acting in this movie. McConaughey was lauded for his performance. He took a method acting approach and lost a thousand pounds for this movie. He certainly looks like an AIDS patient, emaciated and pale. But more than physical change, McConaughey brings his A-game in terms of acting. His performance is excellent, and he is instantly believable as this character. You feel his struggle, and become emotionally invested in what happens to him. He was well deserving of every award he won for this movie. The rest of the cast turn in fantastic performances, as well. The entire production was a complete package. The film is wonderful.