STORY: The film is the real-life story of Rodeo cowboy Ron Woodroof, a homophobic electrician, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1985 and given just 30 days to live. Unable to come to terms with his condition, he decided to fight not just the disease, but also the complacent American health-care system.
REVIEW: A film on an AIDS-stricken protagonist (who, in order to prolong his life, becomes an accidental entrepreneur-crusader-activist) could easily emerge as a melancholic piece of socio-medical drama. Instead, Jean-Marc Vallee uplifts and inspires by just showcasing Ron’s (an emaciated Matthew McConaughey) relentless resilience without glorifying his bigoted views or outrageous (drugs-prostitutes-beer) lifestyle. He is the unlikely hero who knows he is fighting a lost battle. He lives in a trailer park and hates ‘faggots’, who according to him are the only ones to contract AIDS.
After his friends shun him owing to the ‘disease’ and the doctors give him 30 days to put his affairs in order, instead of succumbing to depression, he becomes his own physician. He discovers and smuggles unapproved but effective drugs into the US from Mexico and other countries for himself and to make money. But somewhere down the line, he also ends up reaching out to those abandoned by society like Rayon (Jared Leto), a transgender woman addicted to cocaine and infected by HIV. Their deep bromance forms an integral part of the story and is far more interesting than the insipid love track between Ron and Dr Eve (Jennifer Garner). What seems like a standard plot is elevated to excellence by the lead actors’ remarkable performances.
There’s more to McConaughey than the drastic weight loss and an author-backed, Oscar-friendly role. From getting the Texan mannerisms, swagger and his character’s juvenility right, to producing a range of emotions, he reinvents himself and gives the performance of his career. It would be a shame if he doesn’t bag the much-coveted Oscar for it. Leto is a revelation too and deserves the accolades coming his way. Ron died in 1992, seven years after he was diagnosed with HIV. This is his incredible life story, told with a dash of humour and an empathyevoking narrative. Brilliant would be an understatement.