First Hit: A very strong, poignant and wonderful story about wanting to live.
This story highlights the fear of and struggles with HIV/AIDS in the mid-1980s. Ron Woodruff (Matthew McConaughey) lives a really hard life.
He’s an electrician, bull rider, while trying to un-protectively screw every woman he sees. He’s drunk or high much of the time and in today's terms he lives, what we would call, an extremely risky life. Ron and his friends are homophobic and take pride in being “real men”.
The opening scenes of him screwing a woman in a bull stall while peeking through the fence at a bull rider being thrown from his mount which segues into him taking bets and drinking and hitting a cop tells a specific story. Due to an accident while trying to fix an electrical connection, he ends up in the hospital.
The doctors, after doing numerous blood tests on him, tell him he’s got HIV/AIDS and has about 30 days to live. He’s denies he’s got a homo disease, but his predicament catches up and catches hold in his mind and he begins to learn about his disease. He cannot get dosages of AZT which has been shown to both help fight the virus but in doing so breaks down the immune system completely. As an alternative for himself and others, he goes to Mexico and gets drugs (protein and other antiviral concoctions) and sells them to others who are suffering. He then learns that selling unapproved drugs is illegal so he starts a Club where people pay monthly memberships and get their drugs for free (patients self-administer).
Keeping the club alive for himself and others who are suffering is rough going because the government wants him and other clubs like his, shut down. Helping him develop his club is gay crossdresser Rayon (Jared Leto) and Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner) who walks a fine line until she sees that her hospital’s philosophy is not assisting HIV/AIDS patients is not helping.
McConaughey will be nominated for his portrayal of Woodruff. He physically and mentally did what it took to climb into this role and share the story of a man who lived more than 2,200 days past the expiration date he was given of 30 days. He powerfully showed how humans will do what it takes to survive. Leto was absolutely amazing as Rayon and will probably be nominated for a supporting role. Garner was very good as a doctor attempting to toe the line of her job and also act with empathy towards her HIV/AIDS patients. Denis O’Hare was excellent as the head doctor and administrator holding the line of policy. Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack wrote an amazing script and Jean-Marc Vallee delivered Oscar worthy direction.
Overall: A very powerful film about human perseverance.