Dallas Buyers Club is a 2013 drama starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner.The film is based on the true story of Ron Woodroof (McConaughey), an electrician and rodeo fan who discovers in 1985 that he has HIV, when a workplace accident lands him in the hospital. After learning that the trial drug AZT, which he had been taking to treat himself, was ineffective, Woodroof begins smuggling unapproved drugs, first from Mexico and then further afield. With the help of Rayon (Leto), an HIV-positive transgender woman, Woodroof establishes the Dallas Buyers Club, dealing in drugs to help HIV-AIDS sufferers. Though Woodroof is opposed by the FDA, who attempt to shut down his operation, he finds support from Eve Saks (Garner), a doctor at a local hospital participating in the AZT trial. Saks witnesses first hand the attempts by pharmaceutical reps to get the drug FDA-approved and on the market, despite signs that the drug is proving ineffective in treating her patients.Controversy struck the film after McConaughey and Leto won Oscars for their performances. As a note, be cautious when editing tropes pertaining to this movie.
Action Survivor: Ron was pretty much brought to the brink of death and saved himself and countless others without being a qualified physician, or biologist, or pharmacist and lacking both significant amounts of money and formal education in medical stuff. In just a few months he Took A Level In Intellectual Badass.
An Aesop: While the FDA's regulations against untested medicines are well-meaning and in some cases disaster-averting, like the thalidomide scare in the 60s, here they end up doing a lot more harm than good, and as the Reasonable Authority Figure judge states near the end of the film, even if the experimental meds end up having side effects, the AIDS victims who need them are dying and thus have nothing to lose by gambling with a new drug, and the law should reflect that.
Back-Alley Doctor: Doctor Vass qualifies. He's practicing in Mexico because his medical license was revoked in the US. With access to a wider variety of drugs than he'd have in the States however, he's also able to prescribe superior drug treatments for Ron's HIV.
Science Marches On: At some point in the film, Ron and the doctor discuss the limited options they have, and they say something like: HIV does not kill people by itself, it destroys the immune system and leave other germs to slowly kill (which is well known nowadays, but still unclear when AIDS research was still rudimentary in the 1980s) and does this even quicker on a man whose immune system had been previously degraded by drug use, so they did not need drugs to kill the virus, but drugs to strengthen the patient's body and immune system. This is an in-universe moment of Fridge Brilliance: why on Earth did professional physicians use a toxic drug to (hopefully) cure the virus, when the most sorely needed thing was to nurse the patients to a state healthy enough to walk and work, even for the price of leaving them HIV-positive?
Badass Boast: "There ain't nothin' out there that can kill Ron Woodroof in 30 days."
Bad Habits: Ron disguises himself as a Catholic priest with cancer when crossing the Mexican-US border with his drug supply.
Bait and Switch: One scene opens with Ron's face in close-up and he appears to be praying to God in front of an altar lit with candles. When the camera pulls back, it turns out that Ron is in a dimly-lit strip club, and he's actually talking to a stripper.
Beauty Inversion : Most of the women, including Jennifer Garner, are decidedly un-glamourous.
Binge Montage: Ron's initial reaction to his HIV diagnosis is to go on a drug and alcohol binge with his best friend and a couple of prostitutes.
The Determinator: Ron travels around the world meeting with doctors and pharmaceutical reps to get the drugs he wants imported into the United States. After initially being told that he had just 30 days to live after his diagnosis, he actually lived a further seven years before finally succumbing to AIDS, and along the way fought against the FDA in court to allow him to bring the drugs into the country.
Foreshadowing: An early scene in the film shows Ron and his friends discussing Rock Hudson's AIDS diagnosis.
Present Day Past: Most glaringly with the large poster of a Lamborghini Aventador (first made in 2011) behind Ron's chair in his motel office.
A lot of the TV sets that appear look a lot more recent than models from the mid eighties.
Much of the large-denomination currency sports the larger, off-center presidential portrait redesign that didn't debut until 1996.
During an early gambling scene at the rodeo, a "Bud Light" sign is seen featuring a version of the logo that wasn't in use until the 2000's.
Ron is diagnosed with HIV in 1985, but the name "HIV" did not come into use until 1986. Before then, the virus was called LAV/HTLV-III. However, the filmmakers probably did this so as not to confuse audiences who are not familiar with the history of AIDS.
Strawman Ball: None of the characters who support the FDA's drug policies present a reasonable argument of why drug approval is so slow, even though Both Sides Have a Point. For instance, someone could have mentioned that it was Dr. Frances Kelsey of the FDA who blocked the swift approval of the drug thalidomide in the 1960s, and thus spared America from the wave of horrific infant birth defects that occurred around the world when pregnant women took the drug. The difference here, as the judge states near the end, is that if you have a terminal illness, you really have nothing to lose, and the law should reflect that.
Three-Way Sex: The film opens with Ron having sex with two women in a rodeo stall. Later his friend Clint is seen having sex with a pair of prostitutes after Ron passes up on them.
Took a Level in Kindness: Ron starts the film as a homophobic jerkass, but when he starts dealing drugs and spending more time with Rayon and his largely-gay clientele, he begins to see what an asshole he was. The turnaround is evident when he runs into his old friend Clint while grocery shopping with Rayon. After Clint refuses to shake Rayon's hand, Ron is offended and decides to teach him a lesson.
Woodroof states one biggest regrets is he never had kids. However, the actual Woodroof was married and had a daughter.
The FDA never raided Woodroof, and shared a usually cooperative relationship with him. Woodroof also bought into quack remedies that could have killed him.
What Happened to the Mouse?: The hospital janitor who smuggles out the AZT to Ron. It's a fair assumption they didn't speak or have contact once he told Ron he wasn't going to sell him anymore AZT, and Ron tried to punch him.
Your Days Are Numbered: After diagnosing him with HIV, Dr. Sevard tells Ron that he has about a month to live. Ron manages to see out that month, and with the right drugs he actually managed to survive for seven years after his diagnosis.