Based on a true story, "Dallas Buyers Club" is a distinctively American -- and perhaps even more distinctively Texan -- movie. It is the story of a lone individual's fight against two large and powerful systems: the US government and the medical establishment. Both entities, he believes with some justification, are out to get him. And his life is at stake. The film's protagonist, Ron Woodroof, convincingly portrayed by Matthew McConaughey, is engaged is engaged in a life-and-death stuggle that launches the story. Ron is a hard-living rodeo cowboy and sometime electrician who, after landing in the hospital following a work accident, is told that he is HIV-positive and that he has at most thirty days to live. At this point, "Dallas Buyers Club" becomes a story of the AIDS crisis in America. Ron's co-workers assume that, because he is HIV-positive, he must be gay and immediately subject him to the most extreme forms of rejection and hostility. Among the few people who do help him are a number of gay men and women as well as drug users like himself. One of these people is a drag queen brilliant played by Jared Leto in one of the film's most arresting performances.
Tellling the story of the AIDs crisis from the perspective of an initially homophobic rodeo cowboy is a clever framing device. In his fight to survive, Ron Woodroof becomes a stand-in for everyman, lacking both means and education and yet determined to find a way out of the medical maze in which he is lost. All of the promising drugs are being used in double-blind clinical trials in which the number of patients given drugs is equalled by the number of patients receiving placebos. And the most promising drugs appear to be highly toxic, hastening the patient's demise even while attacking the disease. And many promising drugs are readily available outside of the US -- yet not approved for sale within the country.
At one level, this is an Alice-in-Wonderland story, yet Ron's very lack of conventionality makes him the perfect Alice. His rodeo cowboy persona makes him a fighter by instinct. Without a formal education, he is highly creative in searching for new ways of finding and using drugs. When he is rejected by the medical establishment, he begins a round-the-world odyssey that takes him first to Mexico and then to Tokyo and Amersterdam in search of medicines not approved by the FDA. Barred from selling these drugs, he forms the club of the film's title in which members pay a fee and are given all the drugs Ron can acquire. This strategem infuriates the FDA cops who mobilize all the government's forces to stop him.
The story of how Ron Woodroof survives far longer than his doctors predicted, and how he helped numerous others along the way, is both an inspiring tale and a deeply satisfying film.