Matthew McConaughey is Ron Woodroof, an electrician working in Dallas. One day he finds himself in hospital after a minor accident, and he is told that he has HIV, and has only weeks left to live. What follows is a brilliant tale of how one very determined man works around the system to get patients suffering with AIDS the medications they need.
Yet another film based on a true story, McConaughey’s character is a stereotypical rodeo-going texan who is a racist, homophobic redneck. The stigma surrounding AIDS and its connection to the world of homosexuality proves to be a major obstacle to his acceptance that he even has it, but accept it he does, and he makes the most unlikely alliance with a crossdresser named Rayon, played brilliantly by Jared Leto.
As the name suggests, they get around FDA rules about selling certain kinds of drugs by forming a “buyers club” where members pay a subscription, and then they are “given” their meds. In essence, this film is about one man’s struggle against all odds, and in the face of adversity. What makes this slightly more interesting is that one of those difficulties has to do with himself and his own prejudices.
The bond he forms with Leto’s character is a particularly interesting one, as it starts off hostile, then slowly turns to a begrudging business partnership, until it is clear (even if neither will admit it) that a strong bond of friendship has formed between them. If it wasn’t for Barkhad Abdi’s stand-out performance in Captain Philips, I would definitely tip Leto for the oscar in best supporting actor.
On the other side of the ‘fence’ so to speak, is the doctor at the hospital who initially deals with Ron. Eve, played by Jennifer Garner is initially convinced that what Ron is doing is irresponsible and flies in the face of best practices from a scientific point of view, but she is slowly swayed by Ron’s determined attitude, and becomes an ally, quite to the dismay of her superiors.
Garner, unfortunately does not come off as well as Leto does in his role, and this has nothing to do with her acting ability, and probably a lot to do with my sexist, ageist, preconceived notions of what doctors should be like, but her ‘look’ (including her mannerisms and voice) just don’t fit her part very well. Blame the casting director, I guess. In terms of character development, it is the slow transformation of these three main characters that ultimately keeps us interested.
Like a few of the other films competing for best picture, this one is a character study, and this one examines what characters do when they’re under pressure – when they’re desperate. Not unlike a few other films competing for best picture, this film is based on a true story. While this is definitely a strong film, quite a powerful story, and one that I would recommend, I can’t help thinking that it just lacks the magic to snag any of the prizes its been nominated for. However, the performances are very strong, and it may sneak in there and nab best supporting actor, as I’m frequently wrong about these things (I did woefully poorly in my Olympics predictions, after all).