Movie poster
If you’re going to buy a ticket for this film, grit your teeth, hang on and get ready for a real rough ride.

If you’re going to buy a ticket for this film, grit your teeth, hang on and get ready for a real rough ride.

Dallas Buyers Club” is a showcase for the talents of Mathew McConaughey, who turns in a performance that will be a defining moment in his career. Portraying Ron Woodroof, a real-life, blue-collar electrician with a passion for rodeo, alcohol, drugs and women, McConaughey has brutalized his body way beyond anything makeup could accomplish — and the effect is startling. Emaciated doesn’t begin to describe it.

What’s his motivation for this ordeal?

“Dallas Buyers Club” is set in the '80s when everyone was mystified and flat-out scared by a disease that was attacking the immune system and was seen as a death sentence. For Woodroof, a trip to the emergency room shakes his world when he’s told he has AIDS and only 30 days to live.

At first, it’s total denial. But as his health deteriorates, he flails for salvation.

While much of this story fact-checks, there are two fictional characters introduced, Jennifer Garner as Eve Saks, the ER doctor, and Rayon, a transgender AIDS victim, played brilliantly by Jared Leto. Why is this a big deal? Well, because both are so deeply woven into the plot and much of the story line relies on these characters.

As Woodroof explores every option, takes every chance and breaks innumerable laws to fight for his life, Eve and especially Rayon are pivotal, as our anti-hero evolves from someone who it totally egocentric, homophobic and mercenary to someone who actually develops a little compassion and heart. But don’t get me wrong — he never becomes a choir boy.

In his search for a new lease on life, Woodroof finds an out-of-favor doctor in Mexico who is having success with a regimen of drugs and vitamins. Using disguises, deceit and flat-out smuggling, he brings these"‘unregulated” and “unapproved” substances into the country. While he can’t sell them, he can sell memberships to a buyers club and then simply give the pills and serums out for free — all while raking in the cash. The “Dallas Buyers Club” is born and so is an ongoing battle with the FDA and law enforcement.

While I’m giving this movie 3½ stars, I can’t stress enough that this film is rated R for just about every reason you can imagine. If the performance of McConaughey doesn’t create buzz at Oscar time, I will be stunned.

The bottom line

"Dallas Buyers Club" depicts explicit sexual situations, some with multiple partners, as part of Woodruff's life before his diagnosis. Characters snort cocaine and drink to excess. Topless dancers perform at a club. The script includes constant strong profanity, graphic sexual slang and vicious homophobic and racial slurs. The depiction of HIV/AIDS is not exceptionally graphic, apart from characters' gaunt appearances and a few visible skin lesions or tumors.

— Jane Horwitz, Washington Post Family Filmgoer