Dallas 1985. Redneck – ie racist and homophobic – Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), lives, works, and plays hard. He is into casual sex, drink, drugs, rodeo, and other manly stuff. When he ends up in a hospital after a work accident, the medical team tell him he has HIV+, and about 30 days to live. At first he doesn’t believe them, assuming his tests have been mixed up with a homosexual person’s. But he eventually realizes he does have HIV+ and wants to beat it.
The real story in the film is the self driven research and planning that Woodroof does, to scheme to get himself treatment, and to make money out of it when he sees there are many others in a similar position to him: with HIV+ and treated less than well by the seemingly blundering and could not care less attitude of the medical establishment. Inevitably, aided by an alliance with the transsexual Rayon (Jared Leto) and others, he cuts corners and sails close to the wind (to mix a metaphor or two) as he becomes the savior of the poor HIV+ and AIDS sufferers, and comes to the attention of the authorities.
It’s easy to see why Matthew McConaughey won the Oscar for best actor; his performance was very good, and he showed his dedication to the craft by losing so much weight he looked as if he was really HIV+ and dying. (Personally, I suspect the judges were influenced by that physical aspect, and that Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in The Wolf of Wall Street was more deserving. But, unfortunately for Mr DiCaprio, I am not on the jury.) I did think Jared Leto’s performance was deserving of his best supporting actor award.
This is a touching and powerful film. I wonder how much of the details are less than accurate – it is “based on a true story” – but as a piece of drama, it is very good. It is well paced, believable, and gives something close to a warts and all look at this time in history. I did not expect to like it that much, but was taken in. A good film.