‘Dallas Buyers Club’ props up standard plot with stellar acting

Matthew McConaughey in ‘Dallas Buyers Club.’ Rated R, 117 min. Focus Features, 2013.

When bull-rider, electrician, and unlikable tough cowboy Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) was diagnosed with HIV in 1985, he was given 30 days to live. Based on real events, “Dallas Buyers Club” follows Woodroof’s quest to get the best medicines and supplements – even when that means smuggling them in from Mexico and facing off with the FDA and DEA. Along the way, Woodroof is forced to confront his homophobia when he takes on transgender drug addict Rayon (Jared Leto) as a business partner.

McConaughey’s startling weight loss is transformative, but Leto’s immersion in his character renders him unrecognizable – and totally magnetic to watch. The actors make you believe that these men are fighting for their lives, and the desperation comes through in the pair’s performances, which are bound to be up for awards.

Jennifer Garner and Denis O’Hare play doctors who make you consider all sides of the ethics that get tied up in the pockets of insurance and drug companies. Director Jean-Marc Valle makes “Dallas Buyers Club” not just about one man, but about what the world is (or is not) doing to keep people like him alive.

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