Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
His lust and selfishness gave him HIV, his stubbornness and courage prolonged his life, and ultimately his humanity and compassion made him a better man. This is the stuff of legends, a story tailor-made for Hollywood, and evidently based more than just loosely on a true story about a Texan named Ron Woodroof. The reality probably wasn't as dichotomised; Woodroof probably didn't hate gays that much, he probably wasn't quite as aggressive, and the power-struggle between him and the hospital over HIV medication in general and AZT in particular probably wasn't as simple as put forward in this film (sure, the pharmaceutical industry is a big-money industry, but it isn't exclusively populated by people with impure motives). Still, this is a dramatisation, and a very good one at that, because it doesn't compromise the essence or heart of the story along the way.
What makes Dallas Buyers Club so resonant is first and foremost the fact that Woodroof represents the everyman. His weaknesses, of which there are more than what we are used to in leading characters (which is refreshing), are all common and natural human flaws that we probably share with him more than we're willing to admit. At the outset, Woodroof is a homophobic, ill-tempered, male chauvinist without any goals in life, except getting laid. When he is diagnosed with HIV, it is basically his death sentence. The year is 1985, and doctors are almost as ignorant to the disease as the general public are. Woodroof is expelled by his friends and given up by his doctors. He must battle the disease alone, and his method is to seek out information and to take chances. As he puts it himself, he's got nothing to lose.
It's this courage that eventually transforms Ron Woodroof into a movie hero, and when his journey also makes him alter his beliefs and worldview, he even becomes an everyday hero, despite the fact that many of his more, let's say, eccentric personality traits persists: he's still bad mannered, moody and ill-tempered. In short, he's our own mirror image. And he's incredibly well brought to life by the transformed Matthew McConaughey, whose unprecedented investment in this part, physically and emotionally, certainly makes him worthy of his very first Oscar nomination.
Jared Leto also excels, albeit in a slightly less challenging part (yes, I know, it's challenging, but in a safer and more well-trodden way), and these two performances shall not be undermined when considering the overall effect of the film. The screenplay is just as clever as it can and should be, and the direction by Canadian Jean-Marc Vallée is well-balanced more than anything else. His achievement is knowing how much to pour on and how much to retain - something Ron Woodroof also learned in the course of this journey. A life well lived, as it turned out.